Cardinals begin historic conclave to elect next pope

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VATICAN CITY—The heavy wooden door to the Sistine Chapel has been closed and locked, signaling the start of the conclave to elect a new pope to succeed Benedict XVI, with the odds favoring another Western conservative as pope.

Monsignor Guido Marini, master of liturgical ceremonies, closed the double doors after shouting “Extra omnes,” Latin for “all out,” telling everyone but those taking part in the conclave to leave the frescoed hall. He then locked it.

The 115 scarlet-robed cardinals filed into the chapel past liveried Swiss Guards, chanting the Latin hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus” (“Come Creator Spirit”) to ask for divine guidance after Benedict’s troubled eight-year papacy.

The “Princes of the Church” swore on the Bible never to reveal the secrets of their deliberations or face being cast out of the Church forever, before the doors of the chapel swung shut to indicate the beginning of the lock-in.

The chapel has been swept for bugs and installed with jamming devices to prevent electronic communications, with cardinals entirely cut off from the outside world behind the Vatican’s walls until they have elected a new pontiff.

At an extravagant pre-conclave mass in St Peter’s Basilica the cardinals prayed for unity in the Church—a stark reminder of the infighting that often overshadowed Benedict’s reign over the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

As rainstorms drenched thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, the cardinals burst into thunderous applause when the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, thanked the “beloved and venerable” Benedict in his homily.

On the Vatican’s 17th-century plaza, a barefoot pilgrim in a sackcloth habit knelt on the cobblestones in the pouring rain and bowed his head in prayer as the chants from the Mass echoed across the square from four giant screens.

Several cardinals took to Twitter to say their goodbyes to their online flock before the conclave.

“Last tweet before conclave: May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for fruitful outcome. God bless!” South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said.

The cardinals—who were all appointed by Benedict XVI or his predecessor John Paul II—were set to hold a first round of voting later on Tuesday after which the ballots will be burnt in a special stove in the Sistine Chapel.

The smoke is famously turned white if there is a new pope but the Vatican has already said it expects the smoke from the burning of Tuesday’s ballots to be black, indicating no pope has been elected.

From Wednesday, ballots will be burnt after two rounds of voting in the morning and two rounds in the afternoon—with the eyes of the world focused on the color of the wisps of smoke emanating from a special chimney installed on the chapel’s roof.

Modern-day conclaves normally last no more than a few days and a two-thirds majority is required.

The longest conclave in the past century—in 1922—lasted five days. Benedict’s election in 2005 following John Paul’s death took just two days.

Trio of frontrunners

Among the candidates, three have emerged as favorites—Italy’s Angelo Scola, Brazil’s Odilo Scherer and Canada’s Marc Ouellet.

Like “pope emeritus” Benedict XVI, all of them combine conservative views with social advocacy on issues like poverty, conflict and immigration.

But cardinals from Austria, Hungary, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States—some of them with more reformist outlooks—were also rumored to be in contention.

Bookmakers said Scola was the favorite, followed by Ghana’s Peter Turkson and Scherer.

Ireland’s Paddy Power and Britain’s William Hill said Scola’s chances had improved dramatically and both gave the Milan archbishop odds of 9/4.

But Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera told Italian daily La Stampa there was no agreement yet among the cardinals.

“Some imagine him to be more academic, able to establish a dialogue with culture. Others ask for someone who is close to the people. Others still want someone with more authority to put some Church problems in order,” he said.

“So far, there is no majority.”

A few key aims unite many of the cardinals, like reforming the intrigue-ridden Vatican bureaucracy and re-igniting Catholic faith in the way the charismatic John Paul II did.

There have been calls too from within the Church for a rethink of some basic tenets such as priestly celibacy, the uniform ban on artificial contraception and even allowing women to be priests as in other Christian denominations.

The tradition of holding conclaves goes back to 1268 when cardinals were locked into the papal palace in Viterbo near Rome by an angry crowd because they were taking too long to choose a pope.

Their conclave still dragged on for three years.

Italian media reported the cardinals will be served plain but wholesome food at their Vatican residence—where the windows are locked shut and telephones are for internal use only.

Hungry prelates will be served “meals of soup, spaghetti, small meat kebabs and boiled vegetables,” the Corriere della Sera reported.

“Perhaps this food, similar to that served in hospitals, will help to speed up the choice of a successor,” the paper said.

The 85-year-old Benedict announced on February 11 that he no longer had the strength of body and mind to keep up with the modern world.

In a series of emotional farewells, the German said he would live “hidden from the world” and wanted only to be “a simple pilgrim.”

Paula Murphy from Ireland, who came with her parish for the conclave, said she was hopeful the election would breathe new life into the Church.

“I’m so excited! It’s a moment for renewal.”

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  • Heartrob ng Pugad Baboy

    Will this centuries old European organization finally elect a non European head?  


    • UrHONOR

      KUNG papayag si Don Vito Corleone.

      • Heartrob ng Pugad Baboy

        I know you are joking but there is a truth in there, at least at some point in their history.  Roman Catholic church wouldn’t last this long, dodge all these controversies (abuse of children, meddling in state affairs etc) without aligning themselves to some very powerful organizations.  

      • UrHONOR

        YEAH!  If you had the chance to watch the Godfather trilogy, esp the last one which I have had reviewed at least 20 x, each time I watch it would bring a new vista to the story and the superb dialogue, you’d note that there is a MYSTERIOUS HAND that can move the Vatican around and an ALL-SEEING EYE that telegraphs the happenings inside the cloisters to the puppeteer.  NO, I am not referring to that Spirit nor to that Ghost that are merely chimeras, but to actual and real, down-to-earth, breathing-and- heaving human beings. The latest Vatileaks is a case in point.  WE are ALL HUMANS on this planet.  NO ONE, but no one is one is above anyone else in terms of our nature.  The pomp and circumstance of any ritual are man-made and are attributed to super-human status to create awe and fear among the “gullibles”.  The quid pro quo arrangement is very much alive and kicking.

      • Heartrob ng Pugad Baboy

        Ikaw naman agree na ako sa yo but you had to go cite a movie.  Nawawala ng credibility.

        Do some googling on Mussolini and Vatican.  

      • UrHONOR

        THE movie was based on historical facts and the names disguised.  Hindi naman porke’t movie ay make-believe ng lahat.  On the contrary, the movie lends more credibility to the actual events.  Hanggang sa detalya ng pag-over-take ni Castro sa Cuba over Batista was faithfully reproduced in Godfather. Go watch it if you have not….and if you had…watch it again.  Para din yan yong palabas ng Birdman of Alcatraz, Titanic, Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Pretty boy Floyd, and other movies based on careful and thorough research.  Yong kay Mussolini at Hitler ay may halo ng implicit duress sa RCCh…pero yong walang extra-ordinary events as in the portrayal in the movie godfather na punong-puno ng irony….habang nagdadasal ay pumapatay….that really cuts the mustard.

        And that’s the reason why I mentioned Vito Corleone.

    • Harry

      Get ready to greet Pope S(i)cola.


    >>>Cardinals begin historic conclave to elect next pope<<<

    SA amin, sa gubat , ang tawag sa election o botohan ay CONVEX!

  • noypisiTED

    Why do these cardinals have to shut the door and shoo people away when they come together to choose a pope? They’re supposed to be a decent prayerful horde that are too shy to expose themselves scratching each others’ back, wheeling and dealing or horsetrading in public. The election now taking place at Sistine chapel is no different from ordinary elections in any country around the world. There are concessions after concessions although done in a hushed tone after all the one who would be sitting as a pope also heads the Vatican City and controls the scandal-plagued Bank of Vatican. What could be any better than that? It’s still a game of politics that’s why the Vatican operatives would do everything to make sure that the next pope comes from Italy or at the very least a European. That’s why to anyone who toys the idea of an Asian or African pope can only keep dreaming.

  • kipbuts

    Sana sa labas ng Europa ang mahihirang na bagong Papa. Sana si HH Cardinal Tagle.
    The election of Cardinal Tagle is crucial in ending corruption in the Philippines and open up chances to bring more Chinese to Christendom because this young Cardinal is super magaling at Intsik na Intsik.


    NAKAKATAWANG nakaka-ilang…..ang paraan ng pananalita ng mga naka-communist-red na mga saya.  Ano ba yong mga “pango-pango at creato-creato” na pinag-hhokus-pokus ng mga TNL na mga yon?   Bakit hindi sila gumamit ng salitang maiintindihan ng karamihan…tulad ng Tagal…English na siyang kinikilalang Universal language?  Yan kaya, ay para ma-iba na naman sila sa lahat… nakakataas at nakakalamang sila sa iba pa nilang kapwa?  Ganyan ba talaga ang turo at pinakitang halimbawa ni JC sa buhay niya: ang maging mas mataas, mas magaling, mas malinis at kung ano-ano pang mga MAS sa kanyang kapwa?  Isang nagniningning na halimbawa ay ang pagsuot ng TNL na helmet na yan.  Yang TNL na helmet na yan ay, for all intents an purposes, symbolizes or indicates that the its wearer HIGHER than anyone else in the vicinity….in terms of what…I do not know.  Neither in height nor in stature is the wearer better than all.  And assuming….a wild assumption it is…assuming that the wearer indeed is such as thought of…..should such folly be flaunted, exhibited, paraded, and displayed like constipated peacocks in pain?

    May pa “dominus-dominus” pang mga pinagsasabi, e, maaari namang sabihin sa ibang pananalita na maiintindihan ng lahat!  Sa katunayan, pag narinig ang salitang DOMINUS ng tao, e, ang unang kaispang pumapasok sa utak niya ay PIZZA…DOMINOES Pizza.  At hindi masisisi yong nag-iisip na yong kinakausap nilang diyos nila ay sa Latin lang marunong umintindi.  Hindi di naman?  Bakit?  Sapagkat ginagamit din naman nila ang English na naiintindihan ng lahat pag COLLECTION TIME na!  Ehek!  Tuloy, yong mga hindi nakaka-intindi ng mga pinaggagawa ng mga TNL na yan ay nadadaling sumimple at lumipat sa ELShady o INKy.

    Bagong pope?  PHSAW!  Tulad din yan ng mga senadores at mga kinatawan ng mga tao sa Pinas…….same dog, different collar.  Aw,  AW, AWWW!!! 

  • Olibo

    Babylon, the mother of harlots…—-Viva il Papa!

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