Shelby: Velvet curtains were draped over the window of St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday, where the new leader of the Catholic Church will make his first appearance.
Today, the cardinals, the top leaders of the Catholic Church, are beginning to vote on who that new pope will be.
The secretive election is called the conclave. In Latin it means “with a key,” because the voting cardinals will be locked in the Vatican until a new pope has been chosen. In the days leading up to the conclave, the cardinals took part in church services and called on followers to unite in prayer.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl: Pray for God’s blessing and the gift of the spirit upon all of the cardinals as we go into the conclave.
Shelby: They also stretched their pre-conclave meetings into yesterday because many of the church leaders were asking for more information on the management and abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church for years.
Father Robert Dodaro: The cardinals are at a point where they realize, ‘Hmmm… We’ve had a lot of talking going on. There is nothing really more to be said at this point. It is time to decide now.
Shelby: The 115 cardinals will cast votes until 77 of them – two thirds – agree on the next pope.
To make sure no one knows what is happening, the windows of the Sistine Chapel have been blocked. And a special floor has been installed to jam cell phone signals and block eavesdropping devices.
After each vote, the cardinals alert the waiting world on their progress by burning ballots. If the cardinals do not reach an agreement, black smoke rising from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel means they will continue voting. But if the cardinals do reach an agreement, white smoke will signal to the world that the Catholic Church has its 266th pope.
The cardinals used to burn wet straw to turn the smoke black but there were several false alarms when grayish-colored smoke was spotted over the Vatican. Now, chemicals are added to the burning ballots to guarantee the smoke is black. The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica will also ring when a new leader is elected to make sure there is no confusion.
So, who are some of the most talked about candidates? There is Italy’s Cardinal Angelo Scola and Cardinal Odilo Scherer from Brazil. And then there are American cardinals, like Sean O’Malley of Boston and Timothy Dolan of New York.
Despite the long list of candidates, some Vatican experts say Catholics won’t have to wait long for a new leader.
Delia Gallagher: The second day, in the morning they’ll have two votes. And in the afternoon, they’ll have two votes. So, it’s quite possible that on the second day, as happened in 2005, we will already see some white smoke and have a pope.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.
- How is this papal conclave different from most of the previous ones?
- Why are the cardinals kept in seclusion during the conclave?
- What qualities do you think are most important for the next pope, or other religious leaders, to have?