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Cardinals prepare for second day of conclave to elect new pope

There will be four ballots today – two in the morning and two in the afternoon – to try and choose a new pontiff.

Black smoke emerges from the roof of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, indicating that the first vote in the papal conclave did not result in a winner.
Black smoke emerges from the roof of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, indicating that the first vote in the papal conclave did not result in a winner.
Image: Gregorio Borgia/AP

CATHOLIC CARDINALS are beginning a second day of their conclave to elect a new pope, after the first ballot yesterday failed to find an immediate successor to Benedict XVI.

Black smoke emerged from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, where cardinals are meeting in their behind-closed-doors talks to pick a new pontiff.

Prospective candidates will need two-thirds of the vote – or the support of 77 cardinals – to be elected.

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

Four ballots will be held today – two before noon and two in the afternoon – but smoke will only emerge twice: black smoke emerges only after the two morning or afternoon votes have failed to choose a new pontiff.

As they awaited the outcome of the first vote, suspense mixed with hopes among the tens of thousands of pilgrims in St Peter’s Square.

Among the cardinals Italy’s Angelo Scola, Brazil’s Odilo Scherer and Canada’s Marc Ouellet – all of whom are relative conservatives, like Benedict – are the three favourites. However, there is no clear frontrunner and conclaves are notoriously difficult to predict.

Some analysts suggest that Benedict’s dramatic act – the first papal resignation in nearly 600 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 very 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.

Modern-day conclaves normally last no more than a few days. Benedict’s election in 2005 following the death of John Paul II took just two days.

‘Like an orphan’

Dressed in their scarlet robes, traditionally symbolising the blood they are willing to spill in the service of the Church, the cardinals held a pre-conclave Mass in St Peter’s Basilica where they prayed for unity.

The cardinals burst into thunderous applause when the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, in his homily thanked the “beloved and venerable” Benedict – who has kept well away from the run-up to the conclave.

Pilgrims descended on Rome to attend what is usually an extremely rare landmark in the history of the Church and millions worldwide were following the smoke signals from the Vatican with religious devotion or simple curiosity.

“Without a pope I feel bereft, like an orphan,” said French priest Guillaume Le Floch, 35. “The Church needs a great leader now more than ever.”

What many cardinals want is a leader who can re-ignite Catholic faith – particularly among young people – in the way the charismatic John Paul II did.

At his last Sunday Mass before the conclave, US Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the new pope should “make more visible the love of the Good Shepherd”.

There have been calls too from within the Church for a rethink of some basic tenets such as priestly celibacy, the uniform ban on artificial contraception and even allowing women to be priests as in other Christian denominations.

The scandal of sexual abuse of children by paedophile priests going back decades – and the cover-up of their actions by senior prelates – also cast a long shadow on the Church that the next pope will inherit.

Additional reporting from AFP

Read: Black smoke from chapel chimney means there’s no pope yet

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Gavan Reilly

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