March 12, 2013

Black smoke from chapel chimney: No pope yet

The cardinals held the first day of the conclave today deeply divided over the problems of the church and who best could fix them.

Nicole Winfield / The Associated Press

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A giant monitor in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, shows cardinals praying on Tuesday. Cardinals have begun the conclave to elect the next pope amid deep divisions and uncertainty over who will lead the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic church and tend to its many problems.

AP

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From left, U.S. Cardinals Roger Mahony, Edwin O'Brien and Timothy Dolan leave the North American College on Tuesday to go to the Vatican's Domus Sanctae Martae, the Vatican hotel where the cardinals stay during the conclave.

AP

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While few people expected a pontiff to be elected on the first ballot, the Vatican was ready: In the Room of Tears off the Sistine Chapel, three sizes of white cassocks hung from a clothes rack. Underneath, seven white shoe boxes were piled, presumably containing the various sizes of the red leather shoes that popes traditionally wear. The room gets its name from the weight of the job thrust upon the new pontiff.

The papal tailor Gammarelli delivered the clothes on Monday to ensure that the newly elected pope could change immediately into papal white as soon as he accepts the election. With the words "Habemus Papam" — or "We have a pope" — the pontiff then appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to greet the crowd.

But with so much uncertainty and upheaval going into the conclave, even the American cardinals couldn't agree on whether to expect a short or long conclave.

Cardinal Dolan this week publicly expressed optimism that the election would be wrapped up quickly. And on the eve of the conclave, he wrote a letter to New York priests, saying: "My guess is that we'd have a new Successor of St. Peter by Thursday evening," according to Dolan's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling.

That bullish stance stood in stark contrast with the view of Chicago Cardinal Francis George: His spokeswoman, Colleen Dolan, told The Associated Press that the cardinal suggested it could be a long affair. George raised the possibility that the cardinals may still be meeting by Saturday, when conclave rules require the cardinals to take a break and spend some time in prayer before resuming voting.

The faithful in St. Peter's square were also weighing in on the papal stakes.

"I don't think it's going to be a European pope," said Michael Flueckiger, a 38-year-old caretaker of a church in Flamatt, Switzerland. "In Europe sometimes I think we have given away the gift of faith. Many people have lost the faith. They have lost their expectation in God."

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Additional Photos

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This picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano shows the urns where each cardinal will place his folded ballot after voting inside the Sistine Chapel during the conclave at the Vatican.

AP

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The stoves where the ballots will be burned are shown inside the Sistine Chapel. A chimney will pipe out puffs of smoke to tell the world if there’s a new pope. Black smoke means “not yet.” White smoke means ‘’pope elected.” When Vatican firefighters hoisted the chimney to its perch, it was a visual cue that preparations for the conclave to elect retired Pope Benedict XVI’s successor were in high gear.

L’Osservatore Romano/The Associated Press

 


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