White smoke rises from Sistine Chapel; new pope elected
It has been an hour since the white smoke flowed.By Alastair Jamieson, Staff writer, NBC News
Cheers, shouts and applause erupted from the soaked crowd that had gathered in St Peter's Square despite torrential rain to await the decision of the 115 cardinal-electors.
The smoke came on the second day of behind-closed-doors voting and marked the beginning to a new era for a church combating scandal and internal strife.
His appearance will be heralded by a Latin announcement begins with the phrase "Habemus Papam!" meaning, "We have a pope!"
The papal election follows the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 28.
Now known as the Pope Emeritus, he is now in a temporary lakeside residence at Castel Gandolfo while his permanent living quarters inside Vatican City are refurbished.
NBC's Keir Simmons takes a look at the nerve center of TODAY in Vatican City as Catholics around the world wait with bated breath to see the white smoke signaling a new pope has been selected.
The behind-the-scenes ballot process that has taken place in the Sistine Chapel should still remain a secret. Both the cardinals and staff working alongside them swore an oath of secrecy as the conclave got underway, with the threat of ex-communication for anyone breaking the church's ancient code.
Earlier, cardinals took a lunch break after failing to reach a decision after their morning deliberations.
“We feel the world watching at this exciting time for the church,” said Father Peter Verity, English priest and spiritual director of Rome’s Beda College, in his homily at Mass at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Wall early Wednesday.
'Hairs standing on end'Among the dawn worshippers in the congregation were visiting pilgrims Julie Knight, 50, from Indianapolis, and her husband Karl.
“There’s a real sense of occasion in the city,” she said. “I can feel my hairs standing on end, it’s an incredible feeling.”
The smoke was created by the burning of ballot papers used by the cardinals in their deciding vote, with chemical cartridges being added to ensure the smoke appears either black or white.
At a news conference during the cardinals’ lunch break, Reverend Thomas Roscia, a Vatican spokesman, explained that five cartridges of mixed chemicals were released over a seven-minute period to alter the color of the smoke.
A mixture of potassium perchlorate, anthracene, and sulphur were added for black while a mixture of potassium chlorate, lactose and pine resin were added for white.
On purpose and by chance, Americans join crowd in St. Peter's Square to watch for signs of a newly elected pope.
Amid laughter, Rosica urged reporters to check the details. “I don’t study this stuff,” he said, “I study the Bible.”
Roscia also gave reporters a personal account of the atmosphere inside the Sistine Chapel before the conclave began.
“I realized this was no longer a movie,” he said. “I had chills going up my spine. As I looked at the cardinals gathered there, I saw not just their faces, but their nations. It was much bigger than I ever imagined.”
The word "conclave" comes from the Latin meaning "with key". It is a church tradition that began in 1268 when local officials became so fed up with the lack of a decision among cardinals — they had deliberated for more than two years — that they locked them away with limited food and water to encourage a result.
Such is the importance of secrecy that Vatican officials have installed jamming devices to prevent the use of cellphones by cardinals or hidden microphones by anyone wanting to hear their deliberations.