Black smoke seen at Sistine Chapel

BLACK smoke has poured from the Sistine Chapel chimney, signaling that cardinals had failed on their first vote of the papal conclave to choose a new leader for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and their troubled church.

Surrounded by Michelangelo's imposing frescos imagining the beginning and the end of the world, cardinals locked themselves into the chapel following a final appeal for unity to heal the divisions that have been exposed by Pope Benedict XVI's shocking resignation and revelations of corruption and mismanagement in the Vatican bureaucracy.

Led by prelates holding a crucifix and candles, the 115 scarlet-robed prelates chanted the Litany of Saints, the hypnotic Gregorian chant imploring the intercession of the saints to guide their voting, before the master of liturgical ceremonies intoned "Extra omnes" or "all out" and closed the heavy wooden doors.

Outside, thousands of people braved cold night rain and packed St. Peter's Square, eyes fixed on the narrow chimney poking out of the Sistine Chapel roof. They were rewarded some three hours after the conclave began when thick black smoke billowed out of the chimney, signaling that no pope had been elected.

The cardinals now return to the Vatican hotel for the night and resume voting Wednesday morning.

Read more on the NZ Herald

Topics:  catholic church pope

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