Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

White smoke signals new pope elected by cardinals

The election came on the first full day of voting by the 115 cardinal-electors, who secluded themselves behind the Vatican's mediaeval walls on Tuesday afternoon – more quickly than many had expected.

A joyous crowd in St Peter's Square on Wednesday started cheering and applauding as the first puffs of white smoke emerged, braving persistent rain and chill winds to get a glimpse of history.

The secret conclave began on Tuesday night with a first ballot in the Renaissance splendour of the chapel and four ballots were held on Wednesday. The white smoke indicated the new pontiff had obtained the required two thirds majority in the fifth ballot. Following a split ballot when they were first shut away amid the chapel's Renaissance splendour on Tuesday evening, the cardinal electors held a first full day of deliberations on Wednesday. Black smoke rose after the morning session to signal no decision.

Whoever has been chosen to become the 266th pontiff in the church's 2 000-year history faces a daunting array of problems, including sex abuse scandals, infighting within the Vatican bureaucracy and the growing spread of secularism.

Benedict abdicated unexpectedly last month, saying he was no longer strong enough to confront the challenges besetting the Catholic church.

Brazil and Italy's top contenders
No clear-cut front runner had emerged in the days before the conclave, with some prelates seeking a strong manager to reform the much criticised central administration, while others want to see a powerful pastor to spread the word of the church.

Italy's Angelo Scola and Brazil's Odilo Scherer were seen as strong contenders. The former would return the papacy to Italy after 35 years in the hands of Poland's John Paul II and Germany's Benedict XVI. Scherer would be the first non-European pope since Syrian-born Gregory III in the eighth century.

However, a host of other candidates have also been mentioned as "papabili" – potential popes – including US cardinals Timothy Dolan and Sean O'Malley, Canada's Marc Ouellet and Argentina's Leonardo Sandri.

Cardinals held an initial inconclusive vote on Tuesday evening and a further two followed on Wednesday morning. They returned to the Sistine Chapel at 3pm GMT and at 7.05pm the white smoke emerged. – Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate..

Crispian Balmer
Crispian Balmer works from Rome. Reuters' chief correspondent, Italy, based in Rome. Previously in Jerusalem, Paris, Milan and Madrid. Comments are my own, not Reuters etc etc. Crispian Balmer has over 4856 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

Update: Standard Bank rejects climate proposal

Climate considerations are pressing Standard Bank shareholders to push for the recusal of those with fossil fuel ties.

More top stories

Wildlife farming vs Creecy’s panel

The departments of environment and agriculture legislation are at odds over modifying the genes of wild animals

Drugs and alcohol abuse rage in crime stats

Substance abuse has emerged as a reason for the spike in crimes during the first quarter of 2021.

UPDATE: Magashule tries to tip the scales on Ramaphosa in...

The suspended secretary general argues that the rules the party relied on to sideline him are invalid but those informing his attempt to suspend the president are lawful

Modack charged with Kinnear murder

Nafiz Modack is the second person to be charged with killing Charl Kinnear and five others are accused of conspiracy to commit murder, among 61 other charges
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×