The New Pope’s Smoke

AOL news reports on the ongoing smokestack watch happening at the Vatican.

“Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said smoke from burned ballot papers enhanced by special chemicals likely could be seen at about noon (6 a.m. EDT) and about 7 p.m. (1 p.m. EDT) on each day of voting by the cardinal electors, all of whom are under age 80. At some point soon after the new pope is chosen, the Vatican also will ring bells.

The cardinals spent their first night in the super-secure Domus Sanctae Marthae, a $20 million hotel that John Paul had constructed inside Vatican City so they could rest in comfort in private rooms between voting sessions.

Conspicuously missing from their quarters were cell phones, newspapers, radios, TVs and Internet connections – all banned by John Paul to minimize the chances of news influencing their secret deliberations and to prevent leaks to the outside world. The Vatican’s security squad swept the chapel for listening devices, and cooks, maids, elevator operators and drivers were sworn to secrecy, with excommunication the punishment for any indiscretions.

No conclave in the past century has lasted more than five days, and the election that made Cardinal Karol Wojtyla pope in October 1978 took eight ballots over three days.

Cardinals faced a choice that boiled down to two options: an older, skilled administrator who could serve as a ”transitional” pope while the church absorbs John Paul’s 26-year legacy, or a younger dynamic pastor and communicator – perhaps from Latin America or elsewhere in the developing world where the church is growing – who could build on the late pontiff’s popularity over a quarter-century of globe-trotting.