“Extra Omnes” Everybody out: Let the election begin

The work to choose a new pope began in earnest late yesterday, NZ and Pacific time, as the cardinals in Rome celebrated celebrated Mass for the election of the pope (Pro Eligendo Romano Pontiff).

Gregorian chant echoed through St. Peter’s Basilica as the cardinals filed in wearing bright red vestments, many looking grim as if the burden of the imminent vote was weighing on them.

Members of the public waited in long lines to join the Mass, which was open to all, and several hundred even braved thunderstorms to watch the Mass on giant TV’s in St Peter’s Square.

Applause echoed round St. Peter’s as Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, offered thanks for the “brilliant pontificate” of Benedict XVI.

Sodano’s homily focused on a message of love and unity, calling on all to cooperate with the new pontiff in the service of the church.

“My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart,” he concluded.

In the afternoon, the 115 cardinal-electors, those younger than 80 who are eligible to vote, processed to the Sistine Chapel, chanting prayers as they went, to begin the secret election.

Locked in Conclave, the only clue the world will have of what is happening inside will be smoke signals, one in the morning and one in the afternoon from a copper chimney installed over the weekend in the Sistine Chapel.

The first round of voting is scheduled for early Wednesday morning, NZ and Pacific time.

Lyndsay Freer, Catholic media spokesperson for the Diocese of Auckland is with a huge crowd braving the rain to see the first smoke signal.

“There are thousands upon thousands here, it’s really, really huge, people from all around the world and from every imaginable ethnicity and age, from young pilgrims with backpacks to the patient elderly,” she told CathNews.

Predicting black smoke Mrs Freer says she is hoping the rain doesn’t dissipate the smoke.

This first ballot is expected to have votes are scattered across a wide range of candidates. Some are courtesy votes, cast to flatter a friend before serious voting starts the next day.

From then on, Cardinals will vote up to twice in the morning and twice in the evening (Rome time) until one of their number receives a two-thirds majority, 77 votes.

Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI was elected in just 24 hours, however with no apparent front-runner, people are picking the conclave to take a little longer.

In the past century, no conclave has lasted more than five days.


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