A new pope was elected by Roman Catholic cardinals on the second day of their secret conclave as white smoke rising over the Sistine Chapel and the chiming of church bells signaled their decision.
The new pontiff, who will take over from retired Benedict XVI, is likely to be presented within an hour on a balcony over the main doors of St. Peter’s. “Habemus Papam,” Latin for “we have a pope,” will be announced before faithful gathered in the square below.
The new pope was elected after five ballots over two days by the 115 voting cardinals under the age of 80. Benedict was chosen in four votes over two days in 2005. The quickest modern-era conclave came in 1939, according to Vatican Today website, when Pope Pius XII won in three ballots over two days.
“Each of us must work to build up the unity of the church,” Italy’s Angelo Sodano, the highest-ranking cardinal, said at a mass before the so-called princes of the church began voting yesterday in the 15th-century Sistine Chapel, which is adorned by Michelangelo’s famed fresco of the Last Judgment.
Hailing from six continents, the red-hatted cardinals were called to elect a new leader after Benedict, 85, became the first pope in 600 years to abdicate. He retired on Feb. 28, after saying he no longer had the strength to guide the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The new pontiff must tackle challenges including priestly sex abuse, overhauling the Vatican bureaucracy and reconciling a waning church presence in Europe and North America amid its continued expansion in Asia and Africa.
While Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola was seen as the favorite in the latest odds by betting company Paddy Power Plc, non-Europeans dominated the rest of the rankings. Scola, who as archbishop of Milan is viewed as a Vatican outsider, had 11-to-4 odds of being named pope after Benedict’s Feb. 28 abdication. Turkson was second at 7-to-2.
Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer was third at 5-to-1, followed by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn at 6-1, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet at 7-to-1 and Cardinals Sean O’Malley and Timothy Dolan of the U.S. at 10-to-1 and 20-to-1, respectively. Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle was also seen with 20-1 odds, the same as Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy.
On entering the conclave, a Latin term that means “with key,” cardinals and supporting staff took a vow of secrecy. Under rules updated by Benedict, violating the pledge brings automatic excommunication.
Of the 115 cardinal electors, 67 were created by Benedict and 48 by John Paul II. They spent the last week with cardinals above the voting age discussing challenges facing the church and sizing up papal candidates.