Just 12 days after Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope in modern times to resign from the papacy, the papal conclave has yet to find his replacement.
Black smoke flowed from the roof of the Sistine Chapel Tuesday evening, indicating that the conclave, a group of cardinals given the responsibility of electing the next pope, had not elected the next successor to Peter’s throne.
The news does not come as a surprise to most. Tuesday marked the first day of voting for the conclave. This first round of voting typically serves as a primary for the election. All 115 members of the conclave are candidates, and a candidate must receive two-thirds of the vote, or 77 votes, to be elected. The first round typically produces a few leading candidates and later rounds reveal where votes are heading between these leaders.
During morning Mass, Cardinal Angelo Sodano spoke on the need for unity in the Vatican’s leadership. The church is currently steeped in sexual scandals, infighting between leadership, and confusion over how to approach growing secularism in Europe. Cardinals are deeply divided on what type of pope they wish to elect next.
“St. Paul teaches that each of us must work to build up the unity of the church,” Sodano said in his homily. “All of us are therefore called to cooperate with the pastors, in particular with the successor of Peter, to obtain that unity of the holy church.”
At one point in the Mass, Sodano referred to the resigned pope as the “beloved and venerated Pope Benedict XVI, to whom I this moment we renew our profound gratitude.” Only some of the cardinals clapped at these remarks, while others sat in silence.
The conclave is divided on whether the next pope should be a Vatican outsider who can reform the rampant amounts Vatican bureaucracy, or a leader whose primary focus will be responding to overwhelming levels of secularism in Europe.
Until the cardinals elect the churches next pope, their only communication with the outside world will be through the smoking chimney.
The next round of voting will begin Wednesday morning. If the smoke is black, no new pope has been elected. If the smoke is white, the conclave has elected the Catholic churches next pope.