The Associated Press and The Canadian Press — Vatican City
Cardinals have begun filing into the Sistine Chapel for the conclave to elect the next pope amid deep divisions and uncertainty over who will lead the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic church and tend to its many problems.
Led by prelates holding a crucifix and candles, the 115 scarlet-robed cardinals chanted the Litany of Saints, the hypnotic Gregorian chant imploring the intercession of the saints to help them choose the next pope. They then took their places in the chapel frescoed by Michelangelo with scenes of “Creation” and “The Last Judgment.”
Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation has thrown the church into turmoil and exposed deep divisions among cardinals grappling with whether they need a manager to clean up the Vatican’s dysfunctional bureaucracy or a pastor who can inspire Catholics at a time of waning faith.
Canadian cardinal in the running
Canada’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet among those in the running to be the new pontiff.
Ouellet and 114 other cardinals will seal themselves into the ornate Sistine Chapel to pick a successor to Pope Benedict, who retired last month after eight years in office.
Ouellet is a Quebec native who holds a powerful post in the Vatican where he plays a key role in the selection of bishops and archbishops around the world.
The centuries-old process for choosing a new pope is veiled in secrecy and the chapel has been swept for listening devices by Vatican security.
The election of the new pope will be signalled by a puff of white smoke from a special chimney installed on the roof of the Vatican.
Black smoke indicates no decision has been reached.
Several rounds of balloting could be held and the conclave will go on until a new pontiff is chosen.