He’s been chosen. But his identity has not yet been revealed.
The next pope who will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics was elected Wednesday by cardinals in what was apparently their 5th round of voting on the second day of their conclave.
Crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square — as well as millions of people watching on television around the world — were fixed upon the balcony where they will see the new pope for the first time.
The result of the vote was heralded by white smoke rising from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel. Bells also rang just after 7 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), confirming that the 115 cardinals had elected the man who will succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned unexpectedly last month.
Before the new pope appears in public for the first time, a number of things are happening behind the scenes.
According to the Vatican, the Cardinal Dean, Giovanni Battista Rem will ask the new pontiff: “Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?”
Once he accepts, he will be asked what name he will be called by, and he will say it.
It is only after that that the ballots are burned.
As people cheered the announcement that a winner had emerged from the conclave, the new pope was putting on his papal robes for the first time. Afterward, inside the Sistine Chapel, a Gospel passage is read, as well as a prayer, and the cardinals, one by one, congratulate him and promise their obedience.
Finally, the Cardinal Proto-deacon, Jean-Louis Tauran, will step onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and announce the new pope, shortly before the pope himself will appear.
Seventy-seven votes were required to confirm a new pontiff to step into the shoes left empty by the historic resignation of Benedict XVI at the end of last month.
Whoever it may be will take on the leadership of a church that has been rocked by child sex abuse scandals and corruption claims in recent years.
White or black smoke?
Earlier, black smoke poured from the chimney at 11:39 a.m., indicating that no result came from the first two rounds of votes held Wednesday morning.
The smoke came somewhat earlier in the day than expected because once the cardinals are familiar with the voting procedures, they can move relatively quickly, according to the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman.
After the two morning ballots, the cardinal-electors — those aged under 80 who are eligible to vote — went to lunch in the Casa Santa Marta hotel, where they are staying.
Black smoke also billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel Tuesday night, after the cardinals failed to choose a new pope in the first vote of their conclave.
Huddled under umbrellas as rain came down, crowds of onlookers watched the chimney and big screens set up in St. Peter’s Square.
Filipino priest and CNN iReporter Joel Camaya was among a number of Catholic faithful in the square who watched as the black smoke poured out.
There was “a collective sigh of disappointment and everyone started heading home,” he said. “There was no pope, yet.”
The public interest reflects the “very intense and beautiful period” the church is experiencing at the moment, Lombardi said. “We are feeling the level of intensity of the wait. We saw many people in the square last night, a lot more than I myself had expected.”
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI also watched on television as the black smoke rose on Tuesday, Lombardi said.
Benedict had earlier watched on TV as the scarlet-clad cardinals attended a special Mass and took their oath of secrecy in the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave to elect his successor, he said.
The Vatican received calls Tuesday night from people concerned that the heavy black smoke might have caused damage to the Sistine Chapel or created problems for the cardinals, Rosica said.
But, he said, he could confirm that the frescoes have not been damaged and that the cardinals are enjoying good health.
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