Black smoke rose from the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, signaling that cardinals meeting in conclave didn’t reach the majority of two-thirds needed to elect a new pope in their first vote on Tuesday.
The 115 cardinals who will elect the successor of Benedict XVI locked themselves in the Sistine Chapel earlier Tuesday, marking the start of a conclave to elect a new pontiff, whom they hope can heal divisions in the Vatican’s hierarchy while tending to the church’s 1.2 billion faithful.
The cardinals walked in a procession into the chapel after having solemnly taken oaths of secrecy, led by presiding Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, under the looming fresco of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. After a master of ceremonies pronounced “extra omnes”—Latin for “everyone out”—Vatican staff who had accompanied the cardinals into the chapel poured out, and the massive wooden doors shut with a thud.
The cardinals, lodging at the Casa Santa Marta, inside Vatican City walls, are expected to begin voting again Wednesday morning.
For a pope to be chosen, the cardinals need to form a majority of at least two thirds, or 77 votes. A full day of voting includes the casting of ballots four times a day: twice in the morning and twice in the evening.