After just a day and a half of voting, the 115 cardinal electors locked inside the ornate Sistine Chapel sent a cloud of white smoke up a chimney and into the air over St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, signaling a conclusive vote -- at least 77 of them agreed on a man to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
Within an hour, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, the senior cardinal deacon of the Church, will step onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and announce in Latin the name of the man elected to lead the faith. The new pope will almost certainly have been chosen from among the cardinal electors themselves.
Shortly after Tauran's announcement the new Holy Father will himself appear on the balcony, clad in his papal vesture, to give his first blessing. He will already have been the pope at that stage for about an hour -- officially assuming the title while still inside the Sistine Chapel.
In spite of a much-discussed divide among the prelates heading into the conclave, pitting traditionalists from the Vatican establishment against those more interested in reform, the cardinals have concluded their election in a timeframe typical of the past six conclaves.
The decisive action may be taken as a deliberate move by the clerics to disprove the widespread claims of a bitter division within the College of Cardinals.