Day two of the papal conclave dawned under more stormy skies Wednesday. But the real drama could well come from inside the Sistine Chapel, where 115 cardinals will gather morning and evening — voting twice each time — in an effort to select the next pope.
In the 2005 conclave following the death of John Paul II, it took just four votes to turn Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger into Pope Benedict XVI. If that historic outcome were to repeat itself, the world will meet the next pontiff later today.
Tuesday night’s “fumata nera,” or black smoke, came roughly three hours after the red-robed clerics filed into the ornate and inspirational chapel.
Their march was preceded by a prayerful day meant to summon the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and was followed by a lengthy swearing-in ceremony. Then presiding Vatican camerlengo, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, announced “Extra Omes,” or “everyone out,” closed the big wooden doors and shut out the watching world.
Hours later, Piazza San Pietro buzzed with excitement as all eyes fixed on four giant color TV monitors which projected a live image of the chapel’s recently installed temporary chimney, which was all but invisible in the evening darkness. Cameras flashed but few were shocked.
The negative result was expected by all, including Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, who the day before had cautioned reporters not to anticipate a result on the first vote.
But that prediction, based on centuries of first-vote duds, didn’t dampen the spirits of those thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square under a steady, cold rain. Some sang, others flew their native flags, and one group held a banner aloft reading “Fedeli al papa,” “faithful to the pope.” They will no doubt be back in force for each of today’s four votes, and so on until one such balloting reveals a winner in these symbolic and pivotal papal sweepstakes.