Photo: The Vatican
The Roman Catholic Church’s 115 cardinal electors sent a fume of black smoke into the skies over Vatican City on Wednesday, telling the world that they had not yet been able to select a new pope after three votes.
The cardinals held two votes on Wednesday morning and are expected to vote two more times later in the day.
The successor to Benedict XVI, who stepped down on Feb. 28, must get a two-thirds majority of the ballots cast by the 115 electors, or 77 votes.
The cardinals locked themselves in the Sistine Chapel at 9:30 a.m. to resume voting.
Two votes were held before noon as stipulated in the Universi Dominici Gregis Apostolic Constitution.
Both votes were followed by emissions of black smoke from a chimney atop the Sistine Chapel.
Black smoke came out of the Sistine Chapel’s chimney Tuesday evening, indicating that the first ballot of the 115 cardinals charged with choosing a new pope did not produce a result.
The “fumata” billowed forth at 7:42 p.m., just over two hours after the cardinal electors enclosed themselves to designate the successor to Benedict XVI.
The dense black smoke wafted up for a long enough time to leave no doubt of its color.
A white “fumata” is the signal that a new pope has been chosen.
If a pope is not chosen in the two votes on Wednesday afternoon, the cardinals will again hold four ballots on Thursday.
If no one has received 77 votes after three days, a day of reflection and prayer will be held before resuming the balloting.
Benedict XVI was elected March 19, 2005, on the fourth vote, while John Paul II emerged as pontiff on Oct. 16, 1978, on the eighth vote.
The present conclave is being guided by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re because the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and the vice dean, Roger Etchegaray, cannot be in the Sistine Chapel because they are both octogenarians.
The leading candidates to become the next pope, according to observers, are Italian Angelo Scola, the 71-year-old archbishop of Milan; Brazilian Pedro Odilo Scherer, the 63-year-old archbishop of Sao Paulo; Canadian Marc Ouellet, the 69-year-old president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; and Archbishop of Boston Sean O’Malley, a 68-year-old Capuchin.