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Black smoke: No pope

VATICAN CITY — The first day of a secretive Vatican conclave ended Tuesday with black smoke billowing out of the Sistine Chapel chimney, signaling that cardinals had yet to decide on a new pope.

Smoke emerged shortly after 7:40 p.m. local time before the large crowd assembled in St. Peter's Square to watch the spectacle.

The smoke is produced by the burning of the cardinals' ballots, with chemicals added to alter its color.

Black smoke means an inconclusive vote, white smoke is used when a new leader for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics has been elected.

The Catholic Church's 115 cardinal electors were due to resume voting on Wednesday, with two rounds in the morning followed by another two in the afternoon. The winning candidate needs to secure a two-thirds majority: at least 77 votes.

Most Vatican experts expect the process to be completed by week's end.

The conclave started around 5:30 p.m., when the master of ceremonies called the "Extra Omnes" (everybody out). All non-voting individuals were led out of the chapel, and its doors were locked.

The red-clad cardinals arrived in the chapel in a procession. Once seated under Michelangelo's famous frescoed ceilings, they sung a hymn to invoke the Holy Spirit's guidance and took an oath of secrecy.

Speaking in Latin, they pledged to maintain "secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting."

While the process is highly secretive, and there are no formal candidates, papal watchers say this election is much more open than the one in 2005 that turned German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger into Pope Benedict XVI after just four rounds of voting.

The shortlist of "papabili" (papal candidates) includes Italy's Angelo Scola, Brazil's Pedro Odilo Scherer, Timothy Dolan of the United States, Marc Ouellet of Canada, Peter Turkson of Ghana and Leonardo Sandri of Argentina.

The race is portrayed as a clash between reformists and "curiali," those loyal to the Roman Curia — the equivalent of the Vatican's government.

"My guess is that we'd have a new Successor of St Peter by Thursday evening, with a hoped-for inaugural mass on March 19," Dolan wrote in a letter to his priests in New York, according to U.S. broadcaster ABC News.

"I don't think it (the conclave) will be long," Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera had earlier told Italian daily La Stampa. "There are differences of opinion, but we will find an agreement very soon."


In a sign of global interest for the papal race, websites and Internet services around the world set up special "white smoke" services to alert subscribers the moment a choice had been made. Some had already collapsed because of a rush in people signing up.

The Catholic Church is reeling from months of reports of alleged infighting and divisions within its ranks, as well as sex abuse scandals. Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien has stayed away from the conclave, after admitting "inappropriate" conduct with other priests.


The dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, called for unity while presiding over the Pro Eligendo Romano Pontefice ("For the Election of the Roman Pontiff"), celebrated Tuesday morning in St. Peter's Basilica.

"Saint Paul teaches that each of us must work to build up the unity of the Church," he said. He called on cardinals to "implore the Lord, that ... He may soon grant another Good Shepherd to his Holy Church."

Sodano, who is over 80 and therefore not eligible to take part in the conclave, reminded cardinals that the next pontiff would have to work on increasing the Church's waning appeal and to build on his predecessors' efforts to promote justice and peace.


Throughout the duration of conclave, the cardinal electors are hosted in the Domus Sanctae Marthae (Santa Marta), a modern guesthouse inside the Vatican's grounds, along with dozens of support staff who also have to take an oath of secrecy.

All involved in the process is completely isolated from the outside world, as no Internet, phones, TV or radio are allowed. In addition, the Sistine Chapel and the Santa Marta guesthouse were protected by electronic jamming devices to prevent any bugging.


)2013 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

Visit Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) at www.dpa.de/English.82.0.html

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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AP-WF-03-12-13 2002GMT