Wednesday, 13 March 2013

New Pope Appointed


VATICAN CITY – White
smoke billowed from the
chimney on the roof of the
Sistine Chapel on
Wednesday to show that a
new pope to succeed the retired Benedict XVI had
been elected. The smoke came at 1808
GMT after 115 cardinals
held five rounds of voting
over two days, and the
great bells of St Peter’s
basilica began ringing soon after. White smoke billowing from the chimney Tens of thousands of
pilgrims in St Peter’s
Square cheered and the
bells of St Peter’s Basilica
rang out after the 115
cardinals meeting in a Vatican conclave signalled
their momentous decision. The 266th pope in the
Catholic Church’s 2,000-
year history — his identity
is still a secret — was due
to emerge from the
balcony of the basilica. The crowd chanted
“Habemus Papam!” (“We
Have a Pope!”) as they
waited, waving flags from
around the world. Cardinals have been locked
up behind the Vatican walls
and cut off from the
outside world since
Tuesday, meeting in a
sublime Renaissance chapel swept for recording
devices and installed with
scramblers to prevent any
communication. The smoke from the
chimney was produced by
burning the ballots and
setting off smoke flares in
two stoves specially
installed in a corner of the chapel. The decision came after
five votes — longer than
for Benedict’s succession
to late pope John Paul II in
2005 which was decided in
just four votes. The historic election after
Benedict’s abrupt
resignation last month was
being followed around the
world on live television as
as well as through social media and smartphone
apps — this is the first
ever tweeted conclave. The Vatican has said the
cardinal nominated to be
the next pope will retire
to a “Room of Tears”
next to the Sistine Chapel
to don his papal vestments and then pray in the
Pauline Chapel before
speaking on St Peter’s
Square. Brazil’s Odilo Scherer,
Canada’s Marc Ouellet and
Italy’s Angelo Scola — all
conservatives similar to
Benedict in outlook but
different in style — were the three favourites but
papal elections are
notoriously difficult to
predict. Other possible candidates
include Peter Turkson from
Ghana, Luis Antonio Tagle
from the Philippines and
Timothy Dolan from the
United States. The odds have been
stacked against cardinals
from Africa and Asia —
two-thirds of the voter
cardinals were from North
America and Europe. All the “Princes of the
Church” were appointed
by Benedict or his
predecessor and ideological
soulmate John Paul II. But the names of cardinals
from Latin America, where
the largest number of the
world’s Catholics actually
live, have also been in the
rumour mill. US President Barack
Obama also chimed in on
Wednesday, saying an
American pope could be
just as effective as any
other, before quipping: “But the (US) conference
of Catholic bishops… don’t
seem to be taking orders
from me.” Benedict’s eight-year
papacy was riven by
scandals and the new pope
will face immediate
challenges — stamp his
authority on the Vatican machinery and try to bring
back a Catholic flock that
is deserting churches
across the West. Benedict’s style was
often seen as too
academic and he was
never as popular as his
predecessor. Many of the
cardinals have called for a new pope who will be a
good communicator, able
to reach out particularly
to young people. Conclaves are usually only
held after a pope dies and
are sometimes decades
apart — the last one was
in 2005, the one before
that 1978. A popular Italian expression for things that
happen very rarely is “at
every death of a pope”. The 85-year-old Benedict
broke with tradition,
becoming the first pontiff
to resign since the Middle
Ages. He has said he will
retire to a former nunnery inside the Vatican
— an unprecedented and
delicate situation for the
Church. In one of his last acts as
pope, he issued a decree
allowing cardinals to bring
forward the date of a
conclave in cases of papal
resignation — a move seen by many as potentially
setting a precedent for
future ageing pontiffs. The scandal of hushed-up
sexual abuses of children
by paedophile priests going
back decades has also cast
its shadow over the
conclave. The US group SNAP
(Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests)
called for over a dozen
cardinals to be excluded
from the conclave either for covering up abuses or
making tactless remarks
about the scandals. The Vatican on Wednesday
defended the cardinals and
accused SNAP and other
activists of showing
“negative prejudices”. “None of us are surprised
that they have tried to
take advantage of these
days to repeat their
accusations and give them
greater resonance,” Lombardi said. “These cardinals should be
respected and have every
right to be in the
conclave,” he said. (AFP)

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