VATICAN CITY (CBS News) – The princes of the Roman Catholic Church entered the Sistine Chapel for a second day Wednesday to try and decide on a new pope to replace Benedict XVI, but failed again in their morning round of voting to pick a man for the job.
Black smoke billowed Wednesday just before lunchtime from a small chimney on top of the iconic chapel, signaling that the 115 cardinal electors locked inside had not agreed on any one candidate in their two morning votes. They will break for lunch before reconvening in the afternoon.
How many ballots any one man did garner in the vote held Tuesday night or the two held Wednesday morning will not be known — all voting is conducted in complete secrecy — but for someone to be elected to lead the world’s 1.5 billion Catholics, they must garner 77 of the 115 votes available.
The cardinals will vote up to four times each day until that 77-vote threshold is reached.
Some of the cardinals, including New York’s Timothy Dolan, expressed optimism prior to entering the conclave that it should be over within just a couple days, but others, even from the U.S., have suggested more time will be required due to there being no strong frontrunner heading into the process.
CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports that there were serious fault lines in the College of Cardinals heading into the conclave, broadly pitting more traditionalist prelates, many of them entrenched in the Vatican establishment and bureaucracy, against those more interested in reform. Many of the reform-minded cardinals come from outside Italy, and think the church’s creaking bureaucracy, known as the Curia, and secretive ways are at the root of its problems.
But some secrets are sacred. CBS News consultant and Inside the Vatican magazine editor Delia Gallagher explains that the voting cardinals have sworn an oath of secrecy and risk excommunication if they speak to anyone — even their own staff — from outside the internal conclave sanctum during the process.
Gallagher says the cardinals likely narrowed the field of potential candidates down in their Tuesday vote to just a couple of men, but if they fail to reach an absolute majority consensus in the four possible votes on Wednesday, the prospects for a short conclave will diminish.
If it continues until Thursday evening, that could be a sign that the field has not narrowed and the process may drag on into the weekend. If that happens, Church rules say the cardinals must take a day off from voting for prayer and reflection. That day of rest would fall on Saturday, with the voting to resume on Sunday.
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