Black smoke again billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday, meaning that Catholic cardinals hadn’t elected a pope on their second or third rounds of balloting.
Cardinals voted twice Wednesday morning in the Vatican’s famed frescoed chapel following their inaugural vote Tuesday to elect a successor to Benedict XVI, who stunned the Catholic world last month by becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign.
The cardinals break for lunch at the Vatican hotel and return for another two rounds of voting Wednesday afternoon.
The drama with stage sets by Michelangelo and an outcome that is anyone’s guess is playing out against the backdrop of the turmoil unleashed by Benedict’s surprise retirement and the exposure of deep divisions among cardinals that ensued. They must find a pope who can both clean up a corrupt Vatican bureaucracy as well as a pastor who can revive Catholicism in a time of growing secularism.
The divisions and the difficulty in finding both attributes in one man, many analysts say, mean that the world should brace for a long conclave or at least one longer than the four ballots it took to elect Benedict in 2005.
As they did on Tuesday night, thousands of people braved a chilly rain on Wednesday morning to watch the 6-foot-(2-meter) high copper chimney on the chapel roof for the smoke signals telling them whether a new pope has been elected. Nuns recited the rosary, while children splashed in puddles.