Cardinals in secret conclave failed twice on Wednesday morning to elect a new pope, as black smoke over the Sistine Chapel showed ballots on the first full day of voting were inconclusive, Reuters reports.
After an inconclusive first vote on Tuesday night, the 115 cardinal electors should hold another two ballots later on Wednesday after praying for inspiration from God for a choice that can lead the Roman Catholic Church out of crisis.
Having spent the night closeted in a nearby guesthouse, the cardinals attended Mass in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace and returned to the Renaissance splendor of the Sistine Chapel to hold the two morning ballots.
They face a tough task in finding one of their number capable of facing a string of scandals and internal strife which are thought to have contributed to Pope Benedict’s decision in February to become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.
A chimney above the chapel, where the cardinals are meeting beneath Michelangelo’s luminous fresco of the Last Judgment, will signal a decision with white smoke. More black smoke will indicate no choice has been made.
With several leading candidates, or “papabili”, the cardinals are unlikely to reach a decision on who will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics before Wednesday afternoon, with many experts forecasting white smoke to emerge on Thursday.
Only one man since the start of the 20th century, Pius XII in 1939, was elected within three ballots, with seven ballots on average required over the last nine conclaves. Benedict was clear frontrunner in 2005 and elected after only four ballots.