Thursday, March 14, 2013

World waits for smoke on 2nd day of papal conclave

LIVE VIDEO ? Monitor scenes from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, which will emit white or black smoke to signal if a new pope has been elected.

By Alastair Jamieson, Staff writer, NBC News

ROME - The world awaited smoke from the Sistine Chapel's chimney on Wednesday as Roman Catholic cardinals began their second day of choosing a new pope.

Thick black smoke poured from the chimney above the Sistine Chapel ?about 7:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. ET) on Tuesday, signifying the 115 cardinal-electors had not reached a two-thirds majority on who should be the next spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

Using a smartphone? Watch the Vatican chimney LIVE here

Shut off from the outside world without access to phones or television, the cardinals spent the night in their accommodation at Casa Santa Marta before returning to to the Sistine Chapel Wednesday.?

As the conclave got under way Tuesday, the cardinals' electronic devices were jammed to prevent any communication with the outside world. They will convene again on Wednesday. NBC's Anne Thompson reports.

Voting in silence, the cardinals were expected to hold their first ballot at about 10.30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET). Without a decision, there will be no smoke and the wait continues until a second ballot expected at about 12 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET). The second ballot will be followed by black or white smoke, depending on the decision.

If required, a similar process will be repeated later Wednesday, with the final ballot of the day expected at around 7 p.m. (2 p.m. ET) if no decision is reach sooner.

Despite sometimes torrential rain, hundreds of tourists were milled around in St. Peter's Square with an eye on the chimney, which is located to the right of the main basilica of St Peter. A television screen showing the chimney was also on show.

?We feel the world watching at this exciting time for the church,? said Father Peter Verity, English priest and spiritual director of Rome?s Beda College, in his homily at Mass at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Wall early Wednesday.

'Hairs standing on end'
Among the dawn worshippers in the congregation were visiting pilgrims Julie Knight, 50, from Indianapolis, and her husband Karl.

?There?s a real sense of occasion in the city,? she said. ?I can feel my hairs standing on end, it?s an incredible feeling.?

The smoke?is created by the burning of ballot papers used by the cardinals in their deciding vote, with chemical cartridges being added to ensure the smoke appears either black or white ? in the latter case, a sign that a decision has been reached.?

None of the 115 cardinals will be seen or heard, nor will they have any contact with the outside world, until they have chosen a successor to Benedict XVI,?who abdicated on Feb. 28.

"They're on their own now," said NBC News Vatican expert George Weigel, referring to the total isolation demanded by church rules.

On purpose and by chance, Americans join crowd in St. Peter's Square to watch for signs of a newly elected pope.

Shortly after Tuesday?s conclave began there was a brief drama in St Peter?s Square when semi-naked Ukrainian feminists with the words "pope no more" written on their chests and backs staged a protest before being tackled by police and detained.

The word "conclave" comes from the Latin meaning "with key". It is a church tradition that began in 1268 when local officials became so fed up with the lack of a decision among cardinals ? they had deliberated for more than two years ? that they locked them away with limited food and water to enco

Such is the importance of secrecy that Vatican officials have installed jamming devices to prevent the use of cellphones by cardinals or hidden microphones by anyone wanting to hear their deliberations.

No conclave has lasted more than five days in the past century, with most finishing within two or three days. Pope Benedict XVI was elected within barely 24 hours in 2005 after just four rounds of voting.

Andrew Medichini / AP

Cardinals from around the world gather in the Vatican to elect the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.


First question for new popes: 'By which name do you wish to be called?'

Is it time for the first African pope?

Full coverage of the papal abdication from NBC News


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