Second round of conclave balloting produces more black smoke

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A second round of conclave balloting produced more black smoke, signifying that no cardinal had won the two-thirds majority needed for election as pope.

A trail of grayish-black smoke blew out of the Sistine Chapel chimney shortly after noon Tuesday, April 19, disappointing a festive crowd of Catholic faithful and reporters who had gathered in St. Peter's Square below.

The smoke signal followed two morning ballots by the 115 cardinals, who were meeting in secrecy to elect Pope John Paul II's successor. The cardinals were to return for two more ballots in the afternoon and continue—with occasional pauses for reflection—until they had chosen the 265th pope.

The conclave was the final act in a drama marked by liturgical pageantry, private contemplation and consensus-building among the cardinals entrusted with choosing the next pope.

The cardinals began assembling in Rome immediately after Pope John Paul's death April 2, and for two weeks they met daily to discuss the church's future and sound out potential candidates for pope.

On the morning of April 18, they celebrated a public Mass to open the conclave, praying with faithful for the election of a man marked by "holiness of life" and a spirit of service.

Later the same day, the cardinal electors, dressed in brilliant red vestments, processed into the Sistine Chapel behind a tall gilded crucifix, chanting a litany of saints. After swearing an oath to uphold absolute secrecy and other conclave rules, they listened to a final talk by an elderly Jesuit, Czech Cardinal Tomas Spidlik.

Then the doors were closed and the voting began.

The conclave is the largest in history. It is also the most geographically representative, with cardinals from 52 countries. Only cardinals under the age of 80 could vote, which meant that 66 elderly cardinals would be waiting on the outside for the results.

Eleven U.S. cardinals—including Cardinal William W. Baum, who used a walker for support in the procession—entered the conclave. Cardinal Baum was one of only two cardinal-electors who had participated in a conclave before.

The voting procedure was highly ritualistic. Each cardinal marked his ballot in secret, folding it twice and depositing it in a silver and bronze urn. After the ballots were counted, they were burned with special chemicals to produce the black smoke signifying an inconclusive vote, or white smoke if a new pope was elected.

At least for the first phase of the conclave, a two-thirds majority—77 votes out of 115—is needed to elect a pope. The cardinals could move to a simple majority after about 12 days, but few observers expected the voting to go on that long.

Before the cardinals withdrew for voting, much attention was focused on German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Ratzinger was the main celebrant of the opening Mass April 18, and he delivered a sharply worded homily that set a tone of urgency for the conclave.

"How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking," the 78-year-old cardinal said.

"The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves—thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism," he said.

"Every day new sects are created and what St. Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw people into error," he said. Having a clear faith today is often labeled "fundamentalism," he said.

Cardinal Ratzinger, who headed the Vatican's doctrinal congregation under the late pope, was frequently mentioned as a candidate for the papacy. Italian press reports said he entered the conclave with the solid backing of 30-40 cardinals.

But many other cardinals were also drawing attention: Italian Cardinals Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan and Angelo Scola of Venice; Brazilian Cardinals Claudio Hummes of Sao Paolo and Geraldo Majella Agnelo of Sao Salvador da Bahia; Portuguese Cardinals Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon and Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican's sainthood congregation under Pope John Paul; Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Vatican's congregation for worship and sacraments under Pope John Paul; and Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.

The first conclave of the third millennium was marked by a number of innovations.

The cardinals were no longer sequestered in the rooms surrounding the Sistine Chapel, but were being housed in a Vatican residence hall, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a quarter-mile away.

The cardinals could either take a shuttle bus to the Sistine or walk the same route, along the street behind St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican said the cardinals' path would be temporarily cleared of others working in the Vatican.

During the conclave, cardinals were to have no contact with the outside world, including newspapers, radio and TV. The staff of their residence hall, medical assistants and even the cardinals' bus driver had to take an oath swearing to protect the cardinals' privacy and the conclave's secrecy.

The cardinals began each day with a 7:30 a.m. Mass in the chapel of their residence, where they were also taking their meals. By 9 a.m. they were inside the Sistine Chapel, reciting the Liturgy of the Hours before voting.

The two rounds of morning balloting concluded around noon, and the cardinals returned to their residence. At 4 p.m., they were back in the Sistine Chapel for two more rounds of voting, ending around 7 p.m.

As in the past, the cardinals' ballots were burned in a cylindrical cast-iron stove that stood in a corner of the Sistine Chapel, in use since the conclave of 1939. Connected to it for the first time was a separate electric stove and ventilator, designed to burn chemical packets that enhanced the color of the smoke.

Lest there be any doubt, organizers said the ringing of bells would also signal a successful election.

The Vatican said St. Peter's Basilica would continue to be open during the conclave. This included Pope John Paul's tomb in the grotto area, where thousands of pilgrims were visiting.

The dome of St. Peter's, which overlooks the Sistine Chapel, was closed for the duration of the conclave. Also closed were the Vatican Gardens, where the cardinals were free to stroll—as long as they asked permission beforehand and were accompanied.

Contributing to this story was Benedicta Cipolla.


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