Black smoke – quite a lot of it, so there was no mistake – poured from the Sistine Chapel smokestack Tuesday night, at 7:41 PM Rome time, signaling that the first vote of the Roman Catholic cardinal-electors on a new pontiff did not produce a necessary two-thirds majority.
The voting follows a carefully prescribed ritual, in which the cardinals bring up their handwritten ballots – each one inscribed with the words “Eligo in summen pontificem” (“I elect as Supreme Pontiff”) – and, underneath Michelangelo’s famous fresco “The Last Judgment” – say, “I call as my witness Christ the Lord, who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who, before God, I think should be elected.”
Placed on a plate, the votes are slid into an oval silver-and-gold urn. Three “scrutineers” then open the ballots and read aloud the name written there. Cardinals may keep running tallies, but they must relinquish their notes for burning at the end of voting.
The results of the vote are recorded on another sheet of paper, which goes into the papal archives. Counted ballots are pierced with a needle, then bound together with a thread and burned with chemicals designed to produce either the black or white smoke.
As many as four rounds of voting are allowed each day after the first day. They will be back at it Wednesday.