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Papal Conclave Begins with Rituals, Hymns and Oath of Secrecy

AFP/Getty ImagesBREAKING NEWS: Black smoke was emitted from the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday, indicating that a new pope has not yet been elected.

(VATICAN CITY) -- The Catholic Church's cardinals sang prayers as they marched two by two into the Vatican's Sistine Chapel on Tuesday where they took an oath of secrecy, locked the doors and began deliberating on who the next pope will be.

The cardinals 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.

A new pope could be elected as early as Tuesday since the 115 cardinals cast their first vote this evening in Rome (afternoon ET), although it is considered unlikely that on the first ballot any candidate earns the two-thirds majority needed for election. If no pope is elected on this evening's vote, the cardinal electors will resume the conclave Wednesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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