Al Jazeera Blogs


Europe

Waiting for a new leader of the Vatican

Journalists speculate the outcome of the Papal conclave while waiting for a decision from the cardinals.
Last modified: 12 Mar 2013 01:15

A month and a day after now Emiritus Pope Benedict XVI abdicated, 115 cardinals from around the world are set to find a new pope.

But this is a different conclave.

There has been no mourning and grieving over a dead pope. There has been no anticipation of the end of a papacy and somehow the Vatican has been caught off-guard.

The legacy of Benedict XVI is already at play. Many interpreted his move and some of his words as an admission that things must change.

The pope said he did not have either the spiritual or the physical strengh to carry out his ministry.

He also called for an end to some of the hypocrisy inside the very secretive world of Vatican City.

About 200 cardinals have been meeting over the past week in Rome. What kind of pope is now needed, how old must he be, and what kind of reforms are to take priority - were among the main topics they discussed.

No clear frontrunner

In 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was a solid frontrunner since the very beginning. This time there is none.

A few names are floating around as favourites but there are at least a dozen contenders and a few dark horses who might very well rise from behind just like Jean Paul II did in 1978.

Conclave means "with a key" and the cardinals will literally be locked in the Sistine Chapel. Some describe it the holiest place in the Vatican.

The tradition goes back to the 1200s when the seat of the pope was in Viterbo.

The cardinals could not agree for three long years and the people got angry. So, it was decided that the cardinals would be locked inside a room until they elect the new pontiff.

They stayed in there with a roof open and it poured rain on them, they had little food but it worked.

In modern days, the cardinals will sleep in the Vatican's own hotel, the Santa Martha. But throughout the conclave, they will not be allowed to communicate with the outside world.

No mobile phones and no wi-fi. Even if the cardinals and the 80 support staff who will assist them will take an oath of secrecy, the Vatican is taking no chances.

To make sure there will be no leaks, the Sistine Chapel was scanned for bugging devices and wi-fi jammers were installed around it.

Expect black smoke

There won't be a new pope on Tuesday. That's what we were told by Father Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

So we should expect black smoke - a signal that more voting is to come. They will be four votes per day until the choice is made.

In the meantime, speculation will continue among the 4,000-plus journalists who are covering this story.

There have been long conversations about the pros and cons of each of the "papabile" [those cardinals who have it to become a pope]. There are also friendly bets going around, but the reality is that we will not know until the white smoke rises from the Sistine Chapel.

Then, the windows above the main entrance of the Sistine Chapel should open.

The first two words the world will hear are "habemus papam" - Latin for "we have a pope".

Then we will find out which name this new pope has adopted and finally the new leader of the Catholic Church will emerge.