VATICAN CITY—Catholics gathered from the early morning in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday for the first full day of a conclave to elect a new pope, saying they wanted a compassionate leader who would bring hope to the world.
On a rainy day in Rome, the faithful huddled in suspense under umbrellas in front of the basilica, waiting for the first vote of the day and hoping for white smoke from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney, signifying that cardinals had chosen a pontiff.
Several thousand people gathered, but it was far from as full as Tuesday evening when the cardinals held their first inconclusive vote.
Some of the faithful knelt to pray, others sat on camping chairs and read aloud passages from the Bible.
“It’s the first time I’ve travelled to the Vatican to see a conclave, but I really felt this time more than any other that the world needs the hope a good pope would bring us,” said 71-year-old Brazilian priest Giuseppe Almaida.
“I hope whoever is elected takes the name Clementine, because in this world of wars, suffering and sadness we need clemency,” said Almaida, wearing a Brazil baseball cap to show support for Brazilian cardinal Odilo Scherer, tipped as a possible pope.
Sheltered from the rain under the balustrades surrounding the square, many families and pilgrims said they had come at daybreak to snag the best view of the Sistine Chapel chimney and had brought picnics to get them through the day.
“We’ve got bread, cheese, ham. A simple fare to give us the energy to pray for as long and as hard as we can — the cardinals need our support,” said Filippo Gartuglio, who had come to Rome with members of his local parish in Venice.
Elizabeth Carter from Wales said she had been disappointed when black smoke had billowed out of the chimney after the 115 cardinals held their first vote on Tuesday, but she was glad the electors were not rushing their decision.
“It can’t be easy to decide who has the qualities needed to face today’s challenges: who is strong enough to tackle sex abuse? Who can clean up the Church’s image and make us proud to be Catholic again?” the 34-year old said.