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Update: Black smoke rose above the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday afternoon, signaling that 115 Roman Catholic cardinals failed to agree on a new pope during the first day of the papal conclave. The cardinals are expected to reconvene tomorrow morning.

The 115 cardinals who are charged with selecting a new pope to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics have assembled in the Vatican to pray, meeting, talk, and vote.

The deliberations are secret, although the process calls for votes four times daily until at least two-thirds of the cardinals agree on a single nominee, in a process that was launched following the abdication of Benedict XVI.

WND note: Is the forthcoming pope the final one before the return of Jesus to Earth? Read “Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here”

While the BBC reported there is no clear frontrunner to assume the leadership post in the Roman Catholic Church, NBC reports Milan’s Cardinal Angelo Scola and Brazil’s Cardinal Odilo Scherer have been raised as possibilities.

Others in that category would include Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa who leads the conference of Italian bishops; Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires who reportedly came in second during the 2005 balloting that picked Benedict XVI; Giuseppe Betori, the archbishop of Florence who is described as a “bridge builder;” Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto has alerted church members to the persecution from a secular society; Timothy Dolan, New York’s archbishop who heads the U.S. bishops conference; Dominik Duka; the Prague archbishop who worked secretly as a priest under the nation’s previous communist rule; Willem Eijk, the Netherlands archbishop with degrees in medicine and philosophy; Peter Erdo; of Budapest, described as being on “the ecclesiastical fast track;” Sean O’Malley, the Boston archbishop; John Onaiyekan, of Abuja in Nigeria; Marc Ouellet, of Quebec; George Pell, of Sydney; Albert Malcolm Ranjith, of Colombo, Sri Lanka; Leonardo Sandri, Argentina; Robert Sarah, of Guinea; Christoph Schonborn, of Vienna; Brazil; Luis Tagle, Manila; and Peter Turkson, Ghana.

Benedict, 85, stepped down from the high Catholic office in February after saying he did not have the strength needed to continue in the post. The church has been caught up in a scandals ranging from sex abuse to Vatican bank corruption in recent years.

The process is reported to be that the 115 cardinal-electors will move into the Sistine Chapel for the secret meetings and all others will be excluded. Under an oath of secrecy they will vote on a schedule four times daily until the two-thirds majority is reached.

By tradition, the fact that a new pope is selected will be announced by a stream of smoke coming from the Vatican, black to start, which will change to white.

The BBC said South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier tweeted: “Last tweet before the conclave: May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for a fruitful outcome.”

Associated Press reported that the cardinals are planning a daily morning mass, followed by prayer, after which voting will begin, until a decision is reached.

The report said if there is no success after three days, they will take a day for prayer and reflection, then resume work.

The oath the cardinals take requires them to follow the “Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996″ in making their decision.

They also affirm secrecy “regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting.”

CNN said 5,600 reporters are accredited to cover the events, tailors have completed sets of clothes for the new pope to wear right away, in multiple sizes, and jamming devices have been put in place to stop the cardinal-electors from communicating with the outside world using mobile phones or other devices.

The UK’s Guardian was posting online a live stream from the Vatican.

Do you expect the forthcoming pope to be the last pope before Jesus returns?

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