Big day for cardinals as voting begins

Prayers, Mass begin ritual

ROME - Tuesday is the big day. It's the start of the conclave – voting for the next pope. The day begins with rituals and ceremony and ends with a puff of smoke. In the morning, Mass will be held inside St. Peter's Basilica, and will last between 90 minutes and two hours. The dean of the College of Cardinals will preside over the mass, which will be filled with homilies and prayers to the Lord for strength. 

The next big event, around 4:30 p.m., will see the cardinals, bishops, deacons and priests walking to the Sistine Chapel. Once inside, the cardinals and other key members of the conclave will take an oath of absolute secrecy. Then, everyone except the 115 cardinals will be ushered out so that voting can begin.

The first vote is expected to take the longest as the cardinals begin to understand the process. Most of them, including Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo have never been part of the process.

Between 7 and 8 p.m. Rome time, the first puff of smoke should appear. It will be the only vote of the day. Most likely, the smoke will be black, a sign that the cardinals have not selected a new pope, and voting will continue on Wednesday.

If voting does continue on Wednesday, the first puff of smoke is expected between 10 a.m. and noon. From there, if there is still no decision, the next round will be between 5 and 7 p.m.

Local 2 anchor Bill Balleza is in Rome. Most people he has spoken to around the Vatican believe that the decision won't be until Thursday at the earliest. The last conclave to last more than five days was in 1831.

So who are the top contenders for the Catholic Church's highest honor? Italian newspapers have been reporting that it is a duel between Italy's Angelo Scola and Brazil's Odilo Scherer.

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