Black smoke over Vatican: Still no new pope

2013-03-13 13:15

Vatican City – Black smoke again billowed out of a chimney over the Vatican today, indicating that cardinals meeting in a conclave have failed to choose a pope after three votes.

The smoke emerged from the modest copper chimney pipe on the roof of the Sistine Chapel after the 115 cardinals held two votes in the morning, following one yesterday.

The 115 cardinals held a first inconclusive vote in the Sistine Chapel yesterday as they began the process of finding a successor to Benedict XVI, who brought a troubled eight-year papacy to an abrupt end by resigning last month aged 85.

Black smoke billowed into the night air above the Vatican, indicating that no one had gained the two-thirds majority needed to become the 266th pope in the first vote.

White smoke – produced by mixing the smoke from burning ballots with special flares – would indicate that a new head of the Roman Catholic Church has been chosen.

Pilgrims and the curious huddled under umbrellas to gaze up at the humble chimney pipe that will announce the momentous news – but no one can predict how long the cardinals will take.

Some knelt to pray, others sat on camping chairs and read passages from the Bible out loud.

“It’s the first time I’ve travelled to the Vatican to see a conclave, but I really felt this time, more than any other, the world needs the hope a good pope would bring us,” said 71-year-old Brazilian priest Giuseppe Almaida.

The atmosphere is laden with suspense as no clear frontrunner has emerged, although conjecture has coalesced around three favourites: Italy’s Angelo Scola, Brazil’s Odilo Scherer and Canada’s Marc Ouellet, all conservatives like Benedict.

“So far there is no majority, but some candidates with little support will fall by the wayside soon,” an anonymous cardinal who is too old to vote in this conclave but took part in preliminary meetings told the Italian daily La Stampa.

Some analysts suggest that Benedict’s dramatic act – the first papal resignation in 700 years – could push the cardinals to take an equally unusual decision and that an outsider could emerge as a compromise candidate.

Hopes are high in the Philippines for the popular archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, and on the African continent for South Africa’s Wilfrid Napier, the archbishop of Durban, but in practice their chances are slim.

Two-thirds of the cardinals are from Europe and North America, and the view among many experts is that only someone with experience of its inner workings can reform the scandal-tainted Vatican bureaucracy, the Roman Curia.

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