Cardinals will vote four times a day until two-thirds can agree on a pope, but voted only once on Tuesday evening.
(Aljazeera)The secret gathering of cardinals tasked to elect the next leader of the Catholic church has sent up black smoke out of the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel, signaling that no pope has been chosen.
Earlier on Tuesday, 115 cardinals entered the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel to start their deliberations.
The cardinals walking in two files from the St. Pauline Chapel made their way into the Sistine as the choir sang a Gregorian chant.
Before the doors of the Sistine were shut, all the cardinals below the age of 80, when the papal seat was declared vacant on February 28, made an oath of secrecy in Latin.
Earlier, a mass was held at the St. Peter’s Basilica.
The cardinals will vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate. If after 33 or 34 ballots no pope is elected, the two candidates with the highest votes will go into a runoff in which only a simple majority is required.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Vatican City on Tuesday, said a church spokesman had confirmed the cardinals were unlikely to elect a pope by Tuesday night, when only one balloting is expected.
Benedict’s resignation and the scandals make the choice hard to predict, she said.
“I think there’s an agreement across the board that there’s a huge PR problem for the Vatican, whether because of the sexual scandals or the VatiLeaks scandal,” our correspondent said.
Vatileaks refers to confidential papal documents published last year by an Italian journalist, allegging high intrigue at the heart of the Catholic Church.
Al Jazeera’s Abdel-Hamid said that, particularly in Europe, there was a perception that the church needed to be more flexible with changes in the modern world.
She said there was no clear frontrunner but about a dozen names had emerged as likely candidates to be the next pope.
Al Jazeera’s Barbara Serra, reporting from St Peter’s Square in Rome on Tuesday, said Archbishop Angelo Scola of Milan was the bookmakers’ favourite.
“He is seen as a safe pair of hands,” she said.
But she said the fact that he is Italian would count against him as there was a large push within the church to elect a non-European as pope.
Possible candidates from the developing world include Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, Argentina-born Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, and Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the archbishop of Sao Paulo in Brazil who is of German descent.
Jamming devices in the Sistine Chapel have blocked all communications and the Vatican has also been checked for any bugging devices.
The Vatican has said anyone caught contacting anyone outside the conclave will be excommunicated.
Cardinals including, South Africa’s Wilfrid Napier, took to Twitter on Tuesday to say goodbye to their online flock before they were cut off from the outside world.
“Last tweet before conclave,” Napier told his thousands of followers.
“May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for fruitful outcome. God bless!”
It was a modern sign-off before a centuries-old tradition was due to begin.
The tradition of holding conclaves goes back to the 13th century when cardinals were locked into the papal palace in Viterbo near Rome by the angry faithful because they were taking too long to make their decision.
Benedict stunned the world on February 11, announcing that he no longer had the strength of body and mind to keep up with a fast-changing modern world shaken by vital questions for the Roman Catholic Church.
Borkena: following the news on Aljazeera page linked above someone by the name
“These gods of Christianity will be judged someday for their ant-christ ways.” Not sure whether it’s a reference to the apparent imposition of “new social reality” on religious institutions like the Catholic or not. What is your take on resignation of Benedict, the process following that, the media coverage it is given and the talks of “adapting to new social reality?”