Black or white smoke, did they pick a pope?

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A statue dwarfs the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel where cardinals will gather to elect the new pope during the conclave at the Vatican, Monday, March 11, 2013. AP PHOTO/DMITRY LOVETSKY

VATICAN CITY—Forget all the artistic masterpieces. The most gazed-at item at the Vatican this week will be a humble, copper, two-meter-high chimney that will pipe out puffs of smoke to tell the world if there’s a new pope.

Black smoke means “not yet.” White smoke means “pope elected.”

When three Vatican firefighters hoisted the chimney to its perch a few days ago, it was a visual cue that preparations for the conclave to elect retired Pope Benedict XVI’s successor were in high gear.

The Sistine Chapel and its magnificent Michelangelo-frescoed ceiling were made off limits to tourists. Two metal stoves were then installed in a far corner, away from the chapel’s altar and the area where the cardinals will write out their picks for the next pope on slips of paper.

In the past, counted ballots went into just one iron stove along with damp wood chips or wet clumps of straw to create black smoke if the vote didn’t yield a pope.

But the smoke signal system has been unreliable, triggering nervous cries of “It’s white” and emphatic choruses of “No, it’s black!” in the various tongues of the faithful and curious who flock to St. Peter’s Square for a glimpse of the chimney.

So in 2005, for the conclave that made Benedict pope, the Vatican tried something different: A second stove was installed that produces smoke from a chemical compound whipped up by the Vatican’s own technicians. The smoke from the burned ballots from the first stove and the colored smoke from the second stove were funneled up one pipe that leads to the chimney and the outside world.

But that solution hardly made the distinction between black and white smoke any clearer—and confusion still was the order of the day.

It’s a big unknown whether the Vatican has improved its technology this time around.

The sequestered cardinals will have a first chance to vote early Tuesday evening. If they fail to pick a pope, the next few days can see as many as two rounds of balloting each morning and two rounds each afternoon, until one man clinches the required two-thirds majority.

The weather forecast promises to cloud the situation even further.

Rain, sometimes heavy, is predicted through Thursday, with Friday’s skies forecast to be partly cloudy.

The Vatican says it will shine spotlights on the chimney for the evening votes.

In following the conclave, it will be wise not just to keep your eyes open, but your ears as well: The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica will be set ringing when a new pope has been chosen.

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  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/WC5IJSKXTZLNM3AV3VGPMM4O7Y ero

    New Pope should be a young blood can carry the cross of the entire world and fix the issues of pedophile and sex abuses . Young and Dynamic Pope should also posses a versatile characteristic…. Anyways God has made his choice already we just wait…..    

  • disqus_EWrSdjV1nv

    the new pope should read the bible aloud. everyday. not just mesh his interpretation. start with the bible. the bible. the bible. the bible. the bible.

    and if he understands, let him refresh his staff on the bible. the bible. the bible.

    and make the teachings written in the bible as his life.

  • http://www.wellington3.com/ George Kafantaris

    What would Christ say? 
    Be humble. This is the best way to live as tooting our own horn never works. Pride is the cancer of the self and has wrecked the life of many a man. 
    Share with others. After our living expenses are paid, why not share the rest with those less fortunate. We can’t take it with us, and it will spoil our kids more if we leave it with them. Why not give it to those we deem worthy while we still have our faculties. 
    Show tolerance. This is not only the hallmark of a learned man but also an experienced one. Nobody is all bad or all good. In between lies humanity, but we will never find it if we don’t look there. After all, this is where Christ looked and found us. This is where the Church must look also to find its lost flock. 
    Turn the other cheek. If we were wronged revenge won’t make it right — though it might briefly feel better. But the revenge will perpetuate the wrong, and from generation to generation. Why not fight the urge for revenge ourselves by turning the other cheek and stop it, there and then with us. 
    Above all, let’s love our strange, filthy, unworthy neighbor as we love ourselves. He could use our understanding and help, though he may not deserve it. He is our brother — unconditionally — and we are our brother’s keeper. 
    This is what Christ was about and these are the themes that shaped the Church way back in Constantinople. We should return to those themes to invigorate the Church, and in the process find and invigorate ourselves.

    • UrHONOR

      “PAGTATANGALIN ninyo yang mga kaartehan ninyo sa kasuotan ninyong para kayong peacock kung tingnan.  Yong marami sa inyo na hindi talaga naniniwala sa pagpapalago at pagpapa-sikat ng pangalan ko at ginagamit lamang ang TNL na pangalan ko sa ks-echosan nila, mabuti pa tumiwalag na kayo bago ko pakawalan ang mga kidlat patungo sa dierksiyon ninyo.  At yon namang walang ng magawa sa buhay kundi ako na lang na ako ang ginagamit, magsumikap kayo at gamitin ninyo ang pagka-tao ninyo at hind ang pagka-tao ng iba pa.  Binigyan kayo ng utak at kaisipan hindi para dekorasyon, kundi para magamit sa pang-araw-araw na gawain. Tama na yang pakisawsaw ninyo sa trabaho ng may trabaho….asikasuhin ninyo ang  na sa loob ng bakuran ninyo at hindi yong pinakikialalamanan pa ninyo yong bakod ng may bakod!”

  • UrHONOR

    PAANO yan kung GRAY ang kulay ng USOK?  Siguro recount ang ibig sabihin ng Gray.  “Hello, Ratzi”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TNASVGXZ23VCJWV7KO7WPDIKKI George

    the pinas catholic church must send to vatican abalos and garci former ‘scientiss of comelec”. also throw-in the makawat gloria arroyo as consultant. i can assure you with their extreme knowledge of rigging the election, we will have monsig. tagle as the first pinoy santo papa. capo a tutti a capo

  • mangtom

    Ano ba itong smoke signal na ito? May lahing American Indians ba mga cardinals? Haven’t these cardinals ever heard of the internet? Masyadong maarte itong cardinals.

  • mangtom

    Kung hindi matalo si Tags, the CBCP ought to have a Team Recount in the Vatican to do a recount of votes. Baka may daya kaya talo si Tags.

  • mangtom

    sorry, typo. Should read: kung hindi manalo.

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