(VATICAN CITY) — Black smoke poured out of the chimney above the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday, signaling that the first vote for a new pope did not succeed in settling on a new pontiff.
Few expected the first vote to determine the next pope and the black smoke was not a surprise.
The next vote by the Catholic cardinals is expected to be held on Wednesday.
The cardinals retreated to the Sistine Chapel in a choreographed procession with the 115 cardinals eligible to vote marching in two by two while singing prayers. They were dressed in white robes with short red capes and red caps known as birettas as they complied with the ancient rituals of the church and settled into assigned seats beneath the world famous frescoes created by Michelangelo for the papal conclave.
The cardinals read the secrecy oath in unison, and then came forward to individually to put their hands on the Gospels and repeat an oath of secrecy ending with the words, “the holy word of God which I touch with my hand.”
The mood of the cardinals after mingling in Vatican City for several days discussing the future of the church has been optimistic. New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan predicted a new pontiff by Thursday.
In recent days cardinals have expressed optimism that the conclave will be a quick one and a new leader of the church’s 1.2 billion followers will be swiftly selected. The start of Holy Week on March 24 gives the conclave an added sense of urgency.
After each session of voting, the ballots are burned and smoke is emitted from the chapel’s chimney, with black smoke signaling that no candidate has been elected in the preceding rounds of votes and white smoke indicating a new pope has been picked.
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