Black Smoke Once Again – Speculation Abounds

With the second round of votes resulting in another burst of black smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican watchers are speculating about what might be going on inside the heavily guarded chamber.

According to Fr. Raymond de Souza, writing for Canada’s National Post, in a typical conclave, one candidate usually emerges beforehand as a likely choice and the first vote confirms his strength. Subsequent ballots are cast in an effort to win a two-thirds majority. This was the case in 2005 when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was selected. It also happened in 1963 during the election of Pope Paul VI and in 1939 with Pope Pius XII.

In the second type of conclave, which occurred in 1978 when Pope John Paul II was chosen, there is no dominant candidate going into the vote and no two candidates emerge with a significant plurality. In that case, the cardinal-electors turn toward a third candidate.

“As best as I can determine, this conclave will open as the first type,” Fr. De Souza writes.

“Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan is widely considered to be enough of an intellectual heavyweight to be pope. He has led two of Italy’s most senior dioceses — Venice, which produced three popes in the 20th century, and Milan, which produced two. And while an Italian, he is considered enough of an outsider to the Vatican bureaucracy to be able to reform it, rather than be beholden to it.”

If this is the case, these first few votes will determine whether or not Cardinal Scola will be elected. At the most, it would take anywhere from five to six ballots, which would allow him to be elected pope by Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

If Cardinal Scola does not come out ahead, the conclave may repeat the whole process with the second principal candidate who is Cardinal Marc Ouellet, former archbishop of Quebec.

“In that case, Cardinal Ouellet’s ‘foreign’ status and demonstrated capacity for tough decisions at the Vatican department for bishops, which he currently heads, would make him attractive, in addition to his acknowledged status as a first-rate scholar,” Fr. De Souza writes. “If he proves to be attractive enough on those grounds to be elected, it would likely be on Thursday.”

If the conclave stretches into Friday, the Cardinals will take Saturday as a day of prayer and resume voting on Sunday.

As Fr. De Souza explains: “And if there is no pope by Friday, any number of scenarios beyond the ones sketched here would be in play.”

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