First day of papal conclaveends with no consensus yet

18th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

18 April 2005, VATICAN CITY - A plume of black smoke puffed out of a chimney atop the Vatican's Sistine Chapel on Monday evening, signalling to the world that the 115 cardinals sequestered inside had failed to reach consensus on a successor for John Paul II.

18 April 2005

VATICAN CITY - A plume of black smoke puffed out of a chimney atop the Vatican's Sistine Chapel on Monday evening, signalling to the world that the 115 cardinals sequestered inside had failed to reach consensus on a successor for John Paul II.

Some 40,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square sent up a sonorous roar as a first curl of smoke which emerged just after 8pm local time (1800 GMT) appeared white, tricking the crowd into believing that a new pontiff had been chosen.

Cardinals from 52 countries had locked themselves into the Michelangelo-frescoed chapel from the afternoon to choose a new pope.

The first conclave of the third millennium is under pressure to produce a landmark decision with repercussions well beyond the confines of the tiny Vatican State.

Clad in their quintessential cardinal-red robes, the 115 'princes' of the Church eligible to vote filed solemnly into the chapel on the left of St. Peter's Basilica and took an oath of secrecy before sealing themselves off in preparation for voting.

As of Tuesday, four ballots will be held each day until a new pope is chosen, two in the morning and two in the afternoon.

After the swearing-in rite, Monsignor Piero Marini, acting as the master of ceremonies, proclaimed the Latin phrase "extra omnes" (everyone out), leaving cardinals cut off from the outside world until they pick a new pope.

Vatican experts note that the cardinals will be faced with a difficult choice of successor following the groundbreaking 26-year-pontificate of Polish-born Karol Wojtyla.

Expectations are high for the next pope to perpetuate the legacy of John Paul II, who helped bring down Communism in Eastern Europe and was considered a charismatic voice of authority in a globalised world.

Earlier on Monday, the future pope and his fellow cardinals concelebrated a morning Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

Though in theory any adult male Catholic can become pope, cardinals will pick one of their own as the next leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

The morning service provided candidates with an opportunity to make a final public appearance before being confined to the Vatican for the duration of the conclave.

The 'pro-eligendo Romano Pontefice' (to elect Roman pontiff) service was presided over by German cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of the College of Cardinals, and was concelebrated by all of the other cardinals taking part in the historic ballot.

Outside, groups of faithful followed the ceremony on two giant screens erected on St. Peter's Square while others queued to visit the tomb of John Paul II in a crypt below the basilica.

"I am so excited to find out who the next pope will be," said Brooke Bourne-Sharon from the US state of Florida.

Inside, applause greeted the passage of some of the cardinals often mentioned as papal contenders, among them Ratzinger, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras and Carlo Maria Martini of Italy.

Starting at 4.30pm local time (1430 GMT), the 'princes' of the Church will be asked to switch off their mobile phones and dispense with their newspapers before entering the Michelangelo-frescoed Sistine Chapel.

The cardinals will then be asked to swear an oath of secrecy before taking part in a series of closed-door ballots following time-honoured rituals.

The voters will remain cut off from the outside world until consensus on a new pope has been reached.

During the conclave, which is expected to last several days, the eyes of the faithful and the world's media will be riveted to the old-fashioned chimney atop the Sistine Chapel - on the left-hand side of St. Peter's - from which a white smoke signal will tell the world a new pope has been chosen.

Cardinals are said to be divided over the ideal candidate, and it remains to be seen whether the next pope will be a reformist, an African, a Latin American, an Italian or perhaps an older, caretaker pontiff.

Ratzinger is frequently mentioned as a front-runner, but it is not at all certain whether he enjoys the two-thirds majority of 77 votes required to make him pope during the initial rounds of voting.

The 78-year-old acted as the chief custodian of Church orthodoxy under John Paul II and is now identified as the leader of the conservative camp.

He is also the dean of the College of Cardinals and the only voter to have already taken part in two conclaves, held in 1978.

During the service on Monday, Ratzinger used his homily to criticise what he called "the dictatorship of relativism", which, he said, "has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires".

The cardinal also acknowledged the moment of "great responsibility" he and his colleagues face and said the next pope should be a pastor who "guides us to knowledge in Christ, to his love and to true joy".

Among others also believed to stand a good chance of being elected pope are Latin American candidates, chief among them Brazil's Claudio Hummes, 70, and Dario Castrillon Hoyos, 75, from Colombia.

India's Cardinal Ivan Dias is also considered a contender as is Nigeria's Francis Arinze, 72.

The Italian contenders include Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, Angelo Scola, 63, Tarcisio Bertone, 70, and Severino Poletto, 72.

The election is nevertheless uncertain and a wild card candidate may yet emerge. Few had heard of Karol Wojtyla of Poland when he emerged on the balcony of St. Peter's, in 1978, to the famous Latin phrase 'Habemus Papam'.

If the omens are to be believed, the first ballot may indicate a 'power struggle', as opposing blocs pitting conservatives against liberals are reported to have emerged during pre-conclave talks.

Meanwhile media reports on Monday claim that Ratzinger, has "never denied" he was a member of Nazi Germany's Hitler Youth but insists he was forced to join as a schoolboy.

Hitler Youth membership was imposed on all students at the St. Michael seminary where Ratzinger studied as a teenager from 1941, said the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, quoting writings by the Cardinal.

"He personally has never denied this (being a Hitler Youth member)," said the report which quoted Ratzinger as saying: "As soon as I was away from the seminary I never went to the Hitler Youth again."

Ratzinger also served in a German anti-aircraft unit close to a factory using slave labour before the war's end in 1945, the paper said.


Subject: German news

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