Cardinals entered the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope as the Catholic Church finds itself in stormy seas.
The credibility of the church has been battered by the accusations of widespread sex abuse of children, as well as the Vatileaks scandal involving confidential papal documents, and financial scandals at the Vatican Bank.
A day before the conclave convened in the Sistine Chapel, there were clear divisions as not everyone who wanted to speak got the opportunity, suggesting a fissure between reformers and traditionalists.
As the conclave got underway, Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, prayed for a new pope: “We implore the Lord, that through the pastoral solicitude of the Cardinal Fathers, He may soon grant another Good Shepherd to his Holy Church.”
No frontrunner exists, no clear leader has emerged, perhaps again reflecting the total shock of Ratzinger’s resignation, but there are candidates.
Angelo Scola is an Italian and well liked, but he is not from the Curia, the powerful Vatican bureaucracy; he will be backed by the reformers.
Brazilian Odilo Scherer carries with him the hopes of Latin America and the Curia; he is well versed in the activities of the Vatican Bank and the complex bureaucracy within Vatican walls.
Two Americans have emerged. They are Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, who gives himself no chance, and Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley.
Then there is Canadian Marc Ouellet. He is well-respected and well-known in the Vatican as the man who vets the appointments of bishops and is therefore well-liked by those at the top table.
Everyone now waits for the puffs of white smoke.