Black smoke billows, Pope hunt on
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DANIEL J WAKIN
The cardinals of the Catholic Church held their first ballot on Tuesday to elect a pope, with black smoke signaling no winner on the first day of their conclave inside the Sistine Chapel.
Night had fallen by the time the smoke rose, but people who had flocked to St. Peter's Square on this cold, rainy evening could watch the spotlighted chimney on giant screens set up in St. Peter's Square. Some shrieked in excitement as the thick smoke began billowing out.
The outcome was expected, since all 115 of the cardinals are theoretically candidates, and the winner must receive two-thirds, or 77, of the votes. In past modern conclaves, the first ballot essentially served as a primary, when a number of cardinals emerged as leading vote-getters. Subsequent rounds made clear where the votes were flowing. The smoke will be white when a pope is elected.
The cardinals, who are staying in seclusion in the Vatican's Santa Marta residence, will return to the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday morning. The schedule calls for two rounds of voting in the morning and two in the evening, as needed.
The conclave began 12 days after Benedict XVI became the first pope in over 600 years to renounce the throne of Peter. It was a period fraught with tense discussions about what kind of pope was needed for a church threatened by secularism, the scandal of clerical sex abuse and a Vatican bureaucracy stippled with corruption.
The cardinals, led by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, an Italian and the senior cardinal present, collectively swore, in Latin, to maintain secrecy and obedience to the constitution on papal transition.
In the morning, the cardinals celebrated a Mass led by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who gave the last major public statement by a Vatican prelate before the church's next supreme pontiff emerges.
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