Black smoke as cardinals head to lunch

Black smoke as cardinals head to lunch
Black smoke this morning…Picture: AP

Black smoke has billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, meaning cardinals have not elected a Pope in their second or third rounds of balloting.

Cardinals voted twice today in Michelangelo’s famed frescoed chapel after a first vote yesterday in a conclave to elect a successor to Benedict XVI, who stunned the Catholic world last month by becoming the first Pope in 600 years to resign.

The cardinals break for lunch at the Vatican hotel and return for another two rounds of voting this afternoon.

Many analysts say the world should brace for a long conclave – or at least one longer than the four ballots it took to elect Benedict in 2005.

Thousands braved a chilly rain on to watch the six-foot copper chimney on the chapel roof for the smoke signals telling them whether a new pope has been elected.

After the smoke poured out, the crowds began to dissipate although a few hangers-on appeared ready to wait out the afternoon balloting.

Unlike the confusion that reigned during the 2005 conclave, the smoke this time around has been clearly black – thanks to special smoke flares lit in the chapel ovens to make the burned ballots black.

The cardinals spent the night sequestered in the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel, an impersonal modern hotel on the edge of the Vatican gardens. They have no access to television, newspapers, phones or computers, and all the hotel staff have taken an oath of secrecy to not reveal anything they see or hear.

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