13th March, 2013
Catholic pilgrims are still waiting for the white smoke, signalling the election of a new Pope, as eyes were were riveted on a simple chimney pipe rising above a sublime Renaissance chapel
After three ballots by the cardinals in conclave, a new pope is yet to emerge for the 1.2 billion catholics world over.
The 115 cardinals kicked off their conclave in the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday to find a successor to Benedict XVI, who brought a troubled eight-year papacy to an abrupt end by resigning last month aged 85.
The chimney disgorged black smoke after Wednesday’s first two voting sessions and after Tuesday’s first ballot, indicating that no one had gained the two-thirds majority needed to become the 266th pope.
A successful result would be signalled immediately by white smoke and followed soon afterwards with the famous announcement in Latin, “Habemus Papam” (We Have a Pope).
The failed ballots deepened the 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.
Some analysts suggest that Benedict’s dramatic act — the first papal resignation in over 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.
Whatever hopes Vienna Archbishop Christoph Schoenborn may have, his mother did him no favours by telling the Austrian press that the job of pope “would be much too difficult” for him.
US President Barack Obama also chimed in on Wednesday, saying an American pope could be just as effective as any other, before quipping: “But the (US) conference of Catholic bishops … don’t seem to be taking orders from me.”
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.
All the “Princes of the Church” were appointed by Benedict or his predecessor and ideological soulmate John Paul II.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in a rainy St Peter’s Square on Wednesday, huddled under umbrellas to gaze up at the chimney pipe for the only information obtainable from the secret voting conclave.
“There’s a great atmosphere, we’re not just waiting for white smoke, we’re waiting to see a leader emerge who can open up the Church to the modern world,” said Jean Chiche, who had come with his wife and daughter from Paris.