The conclave to elect a successor to John Paul the Second begins tomorrow in Rome. 115 cardinal electors will gather in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican at 4.30pm local time to start their deliberations, which will take place in secret.
The cardinals will first decide whether to proceed to a vote on Monday evening or wait till Tuesday morning. There will be four votes per day. In the past, the average number of ballots needed to elect a new Pope has been eight, but it can vary significantly. Bells will ring to signal a decision, and at the same time white smoke will appear from the Sistine Chapel chimney. Black smoke will signal no decision has been reached. A visitor to St.Peter’s Square said he hoped there would be a quick decision when the conclave starts. “It is a vote for the whole world,” he said, adding that he wants the new Pope to be like John Paul the Second. Another visitor, meanwhile, favoured a new direction: “I would like the next Pope to enter into dialogue more with people, someone who is more open.” All eyes, from Monday onwards, will be towards the Sistine Chapel chimney.