Cardinals Fail to Elect a Pope on First Attempt

The black smoke rising out of a chimney at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City indicated that the cardinals had failed on their first attempt to elect the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church. They will retire for the night and return on Tuesday to continue resume with new rounds of voting.

About 20,000 people watching from St. Peter’s Basilica initially broke into applause because the first puffs of smoke were white. They soon gave way to black plumes, according to Agence France Presse.

Hundreds of cameras flashed as the smoke began to appear.

“It seemed white, so we all ran toward St. Peter’s hoping to see the new pope,” said Nino Trifaro, 70, of Italy.

The cardinals had been scheduled to hold the first round of votes today. Tomorrow, they are scheduled hold four votes, if necessary. There will be two in the morning and two in the afternoon. A two-thirds vote is required to elect a new pope

Earlier in the afternoon, the doors to the Sistine Chapel were locked as 115 cardinals entered secret deliberations.

Before the doors were closed, they read an oath of secrecy led by German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Then, one by one, each placed his right hand on a Book of the Gospels pronouncing a second oath of secrecy.

Regarding the deliberations taking place inside the chapel, Cardinal Ratzinger reminded the cardinals that they should “not break this secret in any way…”

Every time the cardinals vote, a smoke signal will announce their result. Black smoke means that no pope was chosen, while white smoke accompanied by the sound of bells means that there is a new pope. The gathering could last for several days although conclaves of the past century did not extend past five days.

Earlier, during a mid-morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Cardinal Ratzinger presided and asked God to give the church “a pastor according to his own heart, a pastor who guides us to knowledge in Christ, to his love and to true joy.”