By Frances D'Emilio
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.
Cardinals gathered for their final day of talks on Monday before the conclave to elect the next Pope, amid debate over whether the Catholic Church needs more of a manager Pope to clean up the Vatican or a pastoral Pope who can inspire the faithful at a time of crisis.
It’s a ritual as rich in tradition and symbolism as the Catholic Church can muster: secret oaths, hypnotic Gregorian chants, scarlet-decked cardinals filing through the Sistine Chapel—all while the public outside in St. Peter’s Square watches for white smoke or black to learn if it has a new Pope.