By Mark Abrams, Susan Barnett
VATICAN CITY (CBS) — The 115 voting cardinals will need at least one more day to decide the new leader of the Catholic Church. The conclave cast its first ballot for a pope Tuesday night and the smoke was black.
Shortly after nightfall, the first signs of smoke filled the air above the Sistine Chapel. There was no doubt to the thousands who had gathered on St. Peter’s Square to stand vigil on a damp and rainy night that it was black smoke billowing from the chimney.
A Vatican official quoted by one news service says special pellets were placed into the stove in the chapel so that there would be little doubt on whether it’s black smoke or white smoke.
Just a few hours before the first ballot, the cardinals, including former Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Rigali, walked from the Pauline Chapel into the Sistine Chapel together, each one taking the oath of secrecy. One of them will walk out as the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
The cardinals retired for the evening and were expected to return to the Sistine in the morning for prayer, quiet discussions and more voting. The ritual calls for two ballots in the morning and two in the afternoon/evening period.
The smoke watch continues, and many were expected to return to the square on Wednesday to continue the vigil.
The cardinals will seek some consensus and a candidate who can earn at least 77 or two-thirds of the ballots to become the next Holy Father.
Once the new pope has been chosen, handwritten ballots will be gathered and placed into a stove. They’ll be burned with a chemical to make the smoke white. And to avoid any confusion, bells will ring all across St. Peter’s Square.