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Black smoke signals no pope yet


As smoke billowed from the chimney leading to the Sistine Chapel at 4:05 this morning Sydney time, it was known that the Cardinals had held the first ballot in their conclave, but failed to elect a new pope.

BBC News reports that the smoke - appearing just after 6:00 pm local time - signified that the 115 cardinals locked into chapel earlier on Monday had not reached a two-thirds majority.

Cheers went up from the more than 40,000 pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square when the smoke emerged.

They had been congregating in the piazza throughout the evening, eager to witness the result of the first ballot to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II, who died on 2 April.

Up to four ballots will be held each day, and the ballot papers are burned after every second vote in a stove inside the Sistine Chapel.

Chemicals are added to colour the smoke - black smoke signals failure to agree on a candidate, while white smoke means a new pope has been chosen. This time the white smoke will be accompanied by the ringing of the bells of St Peter's Basilica.

However, there was still some uncertainty about the colour of the smoke as it streamed out of the chimney.

"We thought it was white, then it went black. I had a feeling of exhilaration followed by disappointment," Harold Reeves, a 35-year-old theology student from the US, who was in St Peter's Square, told Associated Press.

Experts had predicted that even if they did so the chance of a pope being elected on the first ballot was extremely remote.

Earlier the cardinals processed to the Sistine Chapel from the Hall of Blessings in the Apostolic Palace.

Strict security measures have been imposed to ensure the secrecy of the conclave is kept.

Parts of the Vatican have been sealed off, and all staff who will come into contact with the cardinals have taken a vow not to divulge anything of what they see or hear.

Mobile phones, newspapers and television are banned, and the Sistine Chapel has been swept to check for bugging devices.

The cardinals will shuttle between the Domus Sanctae Marthae hotel - nestled within the city-state's walls, where they are staying - and the Sistine Chapel until the conclave is finished.

SOURCE
Smoke signals no pope agreement (BBC 18/4/05)

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19 Apr 2005