VATICAN CITY -- Cardinals returned to the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday for a second day of voting to choose a new pope after a great plume of black smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney indicated that their first vote the night before yielded no winner.
The schedule for Wednesday’s voting included a brief prayer followed by two rounds of morning balloting from the 115 cardinals. If no one receives the necessary 77 votes, cardinals break for lunch and return for two more ballots in the 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 XVI’s surprise resignation and the exposure of deep divisions among cardinals.
As a result, many analysts predict a long conclave—or at least 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.
Unlike the confusion that reigned during the 2005 conclave, the smoke Tuesday night was clearly black—thanks to special smoke flares akin to those used in soccer matches or protests that were lit in the chapel ovens to make the burned ballots black.
The cardinals spent the night sequestered in the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel, an impersonal modern hotel on the edge of the Vatican gardens. They have no access to television, newspapers, cell phones or computers, and all the hotel staff have taken an oath of secrecy to not reveal anything they see or hear.
The actual vote takes place in loftier surroundings: the Sistine Chapel frescoed by Michelangelo in the 16th century with scenes of “Creation” and “The Last Judgment.”