On Wednesday afternoon, White smoke appeared from the Sistine Chapel chimney at 7:05 p.m. CET (2:05 p.m. EDT / 11:05 a.m. PDT) after five rounds of voting indicating that the pope elected has accepted the position. According to Catholic tradition, the newly appointed Bishop of Rome is the 266th successor of St. Peter and leader of 1.2 billion Catholics in the worldwide church. In 2005, Benedict XVI was elected on the second day after four rounds of voting. The 115 catholic cardinals who voted in this papal election have elected the new pope with at least 77 votes. After the smoke emerged from the chimney, the big bell of St. Peter’s Basilica could be heard faintly in the background as the crowd at St. Peter’s Square cheered at the moment the bells began to ring signaling the election of a new pope. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, will appear in a matter of minutes to shout from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica “Habemus Papam!” (“We have a new pope!”) proceeded by the presentation of the new pope in his white papal cassocks to give his first blessing as pope. Benedict, who did not participate in the election due to health reasons, is the first pope to step down in 600 years, however he was able to in his eight years to solidify the church’s message on the core Catholic values such as opposition to gay marriage and abortion and saw gains in membership in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. On the other hand, his departure is at a time when the church has lost membership in Europe and the United States, is dealing with financial mismanagement of church assets and overcoming the tide of molestation accusations. Fortunately, the mood of the faithful in front of St.Peter’s Basilica was excitement and anticipation following the news. The first vote happened on Tuesday and two morning votes on Wednesday all had similar results with black smoke emerging from the Sistine Chapel chimney that ended with no pope.
The Vatican on Saturday scolded the media for running defamatory and false reports before the conclave of Pope Benedict XVI’s successor saying these were attempts to influence the election. The Italian newspapers have been running unsourced reports in recent days about the content of a secret dossier prepared for the pope by three cardinals who researched the origins of the Vatileaks scandal in 2012. The reports claim that the revelations in the dossier given to the Pope in December factored into his decision to resign as Pope. The has only said that because he doesn’t have the strength of body and mind to carry on he will resign Feb. 28. The Vatican secretariat of state said on Saturday according to the Associated Press,” If in the past, the so-called powers, i.e., States, exerted pressures on the election of the pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgments that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the church is living.” He continued in his statement saying, “It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave … that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”
Some Vatican watchers claim because the Vatican bureaucracy is heavily Italian that the cardinals might be persuaded to elect non-Italian, non-Vatican based cardinals as pope to force some reform. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, a papal contender, criticized the division, dissent, careerism and jealousies that afflicts the Vatican bureaucracy. The divisions he speaks of were exposed in the document taken from the pope’s study by his butler and leaked by a journalist according to the Associated Press. The document itself tells of the petty wrangling, corruption and allegations of a gay plot in the highest levels of the church. The three cardinals who investigated the theft from the Vatican had the power to interview other cardinals to get to the bottom of the dynamics in the Curia that caused the security breach. On Saturday, Benedict lamented the evil, suffering and corruption that has defaced God’s creation, but thanked the Vatican bureaucrats for helping him bear the burden of his ministry with their work, faith, love and faith these past eight years according to the Associated Press.