GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: VATICAN VOTES NEW POPE
UPDATE: 3/14/13 3:30 PM ET
The pope's first day
The Associated Press released these two videos of Pope Francis' first day:
UPDATE: 3/14/13 11:47 AM ET
Soccer: the other world religion
After the announcement of Pope Francis I's election, Argentina's biggest newspaper reported another holy pronouncement. Revered Argentine football coach and former player Diego Maradona — perhaps not as humble as his papal countryman — reportedly announced, "The God of football is Argentine, and now so is the pope!"
UPDATE: 3/14/13 5:15 AM ET
Francis takes first steps as pontiff
Agence France-Presse — Pope Francis, Latin American's first pontiff, visited a Rome basilica on Thursday at the start of a papacy looking to bring the Catholic Church closer to ordinary people.
The 76-year-old former archbishop of Buenos Aires and railway man's son, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, prayed at Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore basilica to kick off his first full day as the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
"The election of a pope from the 'new world' is an occasion of genuinely historic proportions," said Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
"Revolution at St Peter's" headlined the Italian daily La Repubblica, saying Francis's election represented "geographic and cultural upheaval" for the Vatican.
Read AFP's full report here.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 10:48 PM ET
First Latin American pope speaks softly and carries an allegedly dark past
CARACAS, Venezuela — The 266th pope, and the first ever from Latin America, has one lung, rides the subway, reads Dostoevsky and has been described as both a moral compass and a sellout to Argentina’s former Dirty War leaders.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, the archbishop of Buenos Aires who took the name Francis, appeals to both the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church for his orthodox views on social issues and to more progressive forces for his longstanding advocacy for the poor.
Read the rest of this report from GlobalPost's John Otis.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 8:13 PM ET
Does Pope Francis jibe with a shifting Latin America?
MEXICO CITY — Latin America, home to more than two of every five Roman Catholics alive, finally has its pope after decades of dreaming and lobbying.
His fellow cardinals seemed to reach far outside the Vatican's box in electing Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, 76 — now Pope Francis — to lead the 1.2 billion member church. In addition to being the first non-European pope in many centuries, the Argentine Bergoglio is the only member the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits — ever to reign in the Vatican.
Still, Bergoglio hardly fits the mold of either Latin America's largely mixed-blooded population or the Jesuit order's relatively liberal social philosophy.
Read the rest of this report from GlobalPost's Dudley Althaus.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 6:00 PM ET
UPDATE: 3/13/13 5:55 PM ET
Controversy over Argentina's dirty war
A Guardian op-ed from 2011 accused the Argentine church of being complicit in the country's "dirty wars" which left thousands dead:
The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio's name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment.
More specifically, Argentinean journalist Horacio Verbitsky accused Bergoglio of hiding political prisoners from a delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission with the connivance of the Argentine navy.
Former Argentine military dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla takes communion from then-priest Bergoglio.
Videla was released from prison where he had been serving a life term sentence on charges including homicide, kidnapping and torture.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 5:43 PM ET
European leaders welcome pope
GlobalPost's Barry Neild reports from London:
President Francois Hollande of France offered his "warmest congratulations," according to a statement from the Elysee Palace, his official residence. He said France, where Catholicism is the primary religion, would remain open to dialogue with the Holy See.
Germany's Angela Merkel said she welcomed Francis "with all my heart." She said she hoped the pope would offer guidance particularly for "peace and justice."
Meanwhile, the BBC's Brazil editor tweets:
UPDATE: 3/13/13 5:26 PM ET
Who was the pope's reported namesake, St. Francis of Assisi?
When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio selected the papal title of Francis I, he chose a name with deep meaning and special reverence in the Catholic Church.
Cardinals from around the world nominated Bergoglio, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics today at the Vatican.
In turn, the 76-year-old Jesuit broke somewhat with tradition by choosing to be called Francis, a first for the church.
There are dozens of Catholic saints named Francis, but the most famous is St. Francis of Assisi.
So who was St. Francis?
UPDATE: 3/13/13 5:18 PM ET
Reaction from clergy
GlobalPost's Barry Neild reports from London:
Senior clergy from the Anglican church hailed the appointment. The Bishop of Wakefield, the Right Reverend Stephen Platten, who chairs an Anglican body in Rome, a body that promotes ties with the Roman Catholic Church, said he was "delighted."
"It is exciting for all of us that the new Holy Father is from the New World," he told the UK's Press Association. "It is exciting too that he brings with him a profound theological background formed within the Jesuit family.
"It was encouraging, too, to hear of his commitment to simplicity in his own lifestyle. As a Franciscan myself I was delighted to hear of the new Pontiff's name."
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the former head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said he was "surprised" by the choice of pope, but described the appointment as "inspired."
On an interesting side note, the election of an Argentinean pope comes just days after a referendum on British allegiance in the Falklands that has helped revive animosity between Argentina and the UK over who owns the South Atlantic islands.
It is highly unlikely that Francis's appointment will have any bearing on this diplomatic spat, but it won't stop British newspaper journalists poring over the minutiae of his career to check if he has ever commented on the issue.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 5:00 PM ET
A staunch opponent of abortion and gay marriage
Simeon Tegel, GlobalPost's principal correspondent in South America, reports:
According to critics in his homeland, the new pope is a strict social conservative who may not be cut out to meet the challenge of dragging the Catholic Church into the 21st century and stemming the loss of converts to evangelism.
Bergoglio is a “staunch” opponent of both gay marriage and abortion, including even in cases of rape, according to the leading Argentine paper La Nacion.
During Argentina’s debate about gay marriage, the archbishop published an open letter to Buenos Aires monasteries, the paper reported, which warned that the proposed law was the result of “the devil’s envy.”
He added: “Let us not be naive: This is not about a simple political struggle; it is the ambition to destroy God’s plan.”
In a press release published regarding the Buenos Aires municipal government’s decision to allow abortion in limited circumstances, including rape, Bergoglio noted: “Once again we see the deliberate advance in limiting and eliminating the supreme value of life and ignoring the rights of unborn children. Abortion is never the solution.”
Nevertheless, the news that Latin America had produced its first pope – despite long having been the region with the largest number of Catholic faithful – was widely applauded from Mexico to Argentina.
Bergoglio “enjoys great prestige among his followers who appreciate his total availability and his lifestyle, far removed from all ostentation,” noted the Paraguayan paper ABC.
Meanwhile, the Colombian paper El Tiempo emphasized how the cardinal traveled in the Buenos Aires metro and loved soccer, being a supporter of San Lorenzo, one of Argentina’s biggest clubs.
Adding that he led an “austere and exemplary life”, El Tiempo went on: “An enemy of strident appearances, Bergoglio entirely avoids exposure in the media. Keeping a strict, low profile allows him to travel in the metro and bus like any other passenger.”
UPDATE: 3/13/13 4:50 PM ET
Pope Francis I's first speech
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome, and it seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen who is from far away. Here I am.
I would like to thank you for your embrace, also to the Roman Catholic Church and the bishops, thank you very much. And first and foremost, I would like to pray for our bishop emeritus, Benedict XVI
Let us pray together for him so that he is blessed by the Lord...
Read the full text at The Daily Beast.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 4:46 PM ET
Leaders of UK and Spain react
GlobalPost's Barry Neild reports from London:
Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, was among the first European leaders to react to the announcement of the new pope. Just minutes after the new pontiff was named, Cameron tweeted:
A momentous day for the 1.2bn Catholics around the world as His Holiness Pope Francis I is appointed the 266th Bishop of Rome.
He was joined by his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, who offered his "warmest congratulations" to the new pope.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 4:40 PM ET
President Obama offers warm wishes
President Obama said on Wednesday:
On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness Pope Francis as he ascends to the Chair of Saint Peter and begins his papacy. As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than two thousand years—that in each other we see the face of God. As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 4:12 PM ET
Francis I is the 'conscience of the church,' veteran Vatican-watcher says
GlobalPost co-founder Charles Sennott covered the Vatican for many years and has written three books on the global church. Speaking from New York, Sennott commented on the significance of Pope Francis's election:
"The thing to know about Cardinal Bergoglio is that he has often been regarded as the conscience of the church in terms of the costs of globalization on the world's poor. In this sense, he is very much the first pope in history to emerge from the developing world, an embodiment of the fact that the church is growing in Latin America and Africa while it is dwindling in Europe and America.
"More than 40 percent of the world's Catholics live in Latin America. So this is a big moment, and it lands with a good deal of history that revolves around the global economy.
"During Argentina's severe economic crisis, Cardinal Bergoglio spoke out forcefully on behalf of the poor, and is highly regarded in Argentina for doing so. However, he avoided many of the theological and political pitfalls that have befallen other cardinals in Latin America. He came of age at a time when Liberation Theology was a deep dividing line in the church, with Pope John Paul II cracking down on the Marxist leanings of the movement.
"Bergoglio is seen to have found a different kind of theology that focused on Jesus's message to have a penchant for defending the poor without making the plea political or informed in any way by Marxist theology. He will be a very interesting pope for this moment in time, as rising economic inequality is one of the great moral issues of the day."
UPDATE: 3/13/13 3:59 PM ET
The world reacts: Vox pop on the new pope
GlobalPost correspondents and writers around the world sent reactions to the news of Latin America’s first pope.
In Guadalajara, Mexicans interviewed by GlobalPost’s Allison Jackson welcomed the announcement.
“It is impressive that the new Pope is Latin American,” said Bernardo De Niz, a Guadalajara native.
Jose Enrique Fernandez Cortes noted, “It’s very interesting that he is a Jesuit. This is to my liking."
"The general profile [of the Pope] is important to me and it is good," said Diana, 35, a public servant in Mexico City.
"The Jesuit vision tends to be academically and socially beneficial. The priests of the left are known to be revolutionary and social welfare orientated.
"Francisco I takes his name out of inspiration of St. Francisco of Assisi who had a vision that was open, humble and progressive.
"What makes me uncomfortable is that he has been strongly opposed to gay marriage and adoption."
GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Erin Cunningham sent this update from Cairo:
The vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Essam El Erian, issued a statement on the election of a new Pope on his public Facebook page.
Erian said the new pope has inherited the “important and difficult task” of healing the rift between “believers” across the globe following Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy. He did not offer his congratulations, but instead stressed the need for the pope to engage in dialogue with Al Azhar, the institutional seat of Sunni Islam in Cairo.
“Islam does not know priesthood,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Muslims are all equal in front of God.”
Maha Aboulenein, Google’s head of communications in the Middle East and North Africa region, had a lighter take, which she posted on Twitter.
“White smoke is the old way to break news,” she posted. “If they want our attention lets see the popes do the Harlem Shake!”
UPDATE: 3/13/13 3:42 PM ET
Who is the new pope?
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, of Argentina, has been named the new leader of the Catholic Church. He will go by the name Pope Francis I.
Bergoglio is the archbishop of Buenos Aires, and has spent most of his 76 years in his home country, building up churches.
Read more here.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 3:28 PM ET
Pope Francis I greeted the crowds with, "Buona sera," to huge cheers.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 3:22 PM ET
Pope Francis I
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is the new Pope, according to Reuters and Agence France Presse. He will be called Pope Francis.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 3:08 PM ET
This is the balcony from which the new pope's name will be announced:
An announcement is expected momentarily.
Time magazine reports:
"On that so-called Loggia of the Blessings, Cardinal Proto-Deacon Jean-Louis Tauran of France will announce in Latin: “Habemus Papam!”, pronounce the given name of the elected Pontiff and declare the name he has chosen under which to reign. The Vicar of Christ and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church will then emerge and give his first traditional Urbi et Orbi — the papal blessing saluting and praying for the city of Rome and the wider world."
UPDATE: 3/13/13 3:03 PM ET
Vatican City waits anxiously
ROME — White smoke rose over a packed and rain-soaked St. Peter's Square and an enormous roar went up from the crowd.
After two days of deliberation, the assembled cardinals selected a new pope on Wednesday. He is expected to step out onto the balcony overlooking the square shortly as the number of people streaming toward St. Peter's is growing by the minute.
As the world prepares to greet the next pontiff — possibly the first to truly represent a global church of 1.2 billion catholics, more than two-thirds of whom now live in Latin America, Africa and Asia — big questions about the direction of the church await.
But more prosaic issues dominated the conclave, chief among them the role of the Vatican Bank.
Continue reading this dispatch from GlobalPost's Jason Berry in Rome.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 2:35 PM ET
UPDATE: 3/13/13 2:25 PM ET
Reports from Vatican City suggest the new pope will be announced within the next hour from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. The white smoke billowed out at 7:06 pm, and the crowd cheered loudly as the bells of St. Peter's pealed.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 2:06 PM ET
UPDATE: 3/13/13 2:05 PM ET
Sistine Seagull becomes social media sensation
"Hanging out on the Sistine Chapel Chimney, livetweeting #conclave #newpope," read the first tweet from the Sistine Seagull account.
As the world awaited the selection of a new pope, an unlikely superstar emerged in the form of a seagull.
Dubbed the "Sistine Seagull," the bird became a Twitter superstar after live cameras captured it perched atop the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.
Check out the collection of tweets here.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 1:50 PM ET
Nigeria's thriving Catholics push for continuing conservatism from church
ABUJA, Nigeria — As other parishioners filed out of the Mass behind her Friday, Felecitas Olajide paused and flicked off her small lace veil — a garment she says is not compulsory for the faithful here, but tradition.
Olajide, a Catholic, looked surprised when asked how she has time to attend Mass seven days a week.
“It’s a duty and I owe it to God,” she said. “I create the time.”
Olajide is not unusual in her devotion here in Nigeria, as crowds of worshippers pour into churches and mosques daily in this deeply religious country — home to Africa’s single largest Catholic population that is part of an increasingly global church whose leadership does not yet reflect its diversity.
Nigerian clerics say they look to Rome for guidance in all matters. With the world’s cardinals assembled there to elect a new pope, Catholic leaders in Nigeria say they are hoping the next man in charge holds on to conservative values, despite pressure from an increasingly liberal world.
Read the rest of the story from GlobalPost's Heather Murdock.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 1:28 PM ET
What's in a name?
Reuters — Even before he utters his first words in public, the new pope who emerges from the conclave this week will send Roman Catholics around the world a message encoded in the name he chooses.
It may not be one they immediately understand. Picking an unlikely one from the distant papal past - for example, Hilarus or Zephyrinus - would send Catholics scurrying to their history books to see what it could mean.
But one harking back to modern popes - Benedict or John Paul or John - would signal right away the new leader of 1.2 billion faithful wants continuity with the papacy his name refers to.
One name making the rounds in Rome before the 115 cardinal electors filed into the Sistine Chapel for their conclave on Tuesday was Francis, a name Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley might take if he emerges as the new pontiff.
Read the rest here.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 12:50 PM ET
A seagull highjacked the spotlight of the much-watched chimney this afternoon.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 12:47 PM ET
GlobalPost religion writer Jason Berry reports:
ROME — St. Peter's Square is crowded with umbrellas everywhere glistening under the cold rain, everyone waiting to see the color of the smoke, people pitched for the great moment if it comes — ready to retreat to warmth and supper if it does not.
"If they go into tomorrow, it means that Scola's chances have diminished," Marco Politi, the papal biographer and veteran Vatican journalist told me early this afternoon. Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola is by consensus the front-runner, though what that means with such fervent speculation in the media is a little unclear. He could just as easily not be, for all we really know.
Reports in La Stampa by Andrea Tornielli say that cardinals are asking questions about operation of the Vatican Bank, a sign that the highly secretive organization which Pope Benedict put under a new internal financial authority in 2012 is one of the concerns enmeshed with the larger issue of how the Roman Curia functions.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 12:37 PM ET
No smoking like a chimney
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi hoped that the 115 cardinals gathered at the papal conclave wouldn't chainsmoke their way through the proceedings.
"I think the cardinals are allowed to smoke where they think appropriate. As long as they follow the normal rules of politeness. We would hope they follow (them)," Lombardi told a press conference on Wednesday.
"We know that some smoke. We would hope that they are doing that reasonably and taking care of their health."
Read the rest, from Agence France Presse.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 12:15 PM ET
The man who would be pope?
SAO PAOLO, Brazil — A workaholic who reportedly only sleeps four hours a night and quietly insists his priests use their clerical collars, Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer has something of an austere reputation among his typically informal compatriots.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Brazilian Catholic Church was headed by charismatic men who helped lead the fight against the country’s military dictatorship, becoming national figures as they rallied millions to the cause of democracy. But at this stable moment in his country’s history, the man known simply as "Dom Odilo" is an altogether more self-contained figure.
The owner of a piercing gaze, Scherer disdains rhetorical flourishes when preaching from the pulpit of Sao Paulo’s metropolitan cathedral, his congregants say. He has criticized some of his more exuberant priests for aping the emotional preaching style of their increasingly numerous Pentecostal rivals who have tempted millions of Brazilians away from Rome in recent decades.
Nevertheless, his position as archbishop to the 6 million Catholics living in the biggest diocese in the world’s most populous Catholic country, means Scherer, 63, has been considered a contender to become the next leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world since Pope Benedict’s shock resignation.
Read the rest of the story here, from Tom Hennigan.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 11:42 AM ET
The Worm has landed
Continuing his string of mystifying high-profile international trips, Dennis Rodman landed in Rome today. Several reports have claimed Rodman will be campaigning for Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, considered one of the top candidates for pope.
The Catholic Church has never had a black leader. From Rome, Rodman told NBC: "I'm here to support the cause of the church ... no matter what color you are."
The former NBA celebrity, who made headlines last month after a bizarre voyage to North Korea, didn't leave his trademark flamboyance at home. The Associated Press reports Rodman, photographed in Rome wearing a jacket printed with a psychadelic floral pattern, will make an appearance at St. Peter's Square later today in a "makeshift popemobile."
UPDATE: 3/13/13 10:40 AM ET
Cardinal Roger Mahony voting at Vatican as lawyers settle sex abuse claims
Just as the conclave began in Vatican City, reports emerged that one of the 115 cardinals voting for the next leader of the Catholic Church has settled sex abuse cases brought against him.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, as Reuters wrote, had been "accused of helping a confessed pedophile priest evade law enforcement, sending him out of state to a church-run treatment center, then placing the priest back in the Los Angeles ministry."
The priest, Mahony and The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles have now agreed to pay $10 million to four parties who had alleged child sex abuse.
The Catholic Church in the US has spent billions of dollars settling sex abuse cases since the 1990s.
The presence of cardinals accused of misconduct at the Vatican conclave has triggered some protest and backlash.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 9:44 AM ET
Trend of the moment: #ReplaceMovieTitlesWithPope
Twitter is reliably taking the news of the day to new extremes of humor and offense.
UPDATE: 3/13/13 7:45 AM ET
Day 2: Black smoke again
Black smoke emerged from the iconic Sistine Chapel again on Wednesday, as Catholic cardinals failed to elect a pope on the second day of the Vatican conclave.
Agreement on a new head of the Catholic Church requires a two-thirds majority vote. On Wednesday — the first full day of deliberations — the 115 members of the College of Cardinals eligible to vote cast ballots twice, with no conclusive results.
The men will vote twice again this afternoon following a break for lunch. The cardinals will continue to vote four times daily until a decision is reached.
Read more on this story here.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 5:15 PM ET
Tune in tomorrow
This live blog is closed for the night. Please check here for new developments.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 4:14 PM ET
For a new pope, issues of a global church
ROME — As the cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel Tuesday afternoon for the opening round of votes in the papal conclave, news coverage has framed two issues confronting the next pope: cleaning up a scandal-ridden Roman Curia, and forging durable reforms to halt the clergy sex abuse crisis.
But the reality of the global church is much larger than concerns bearing down on Princes of the Church, or social forces driving polarization of the church in Western countries, such as the priest shortage, celibacy, women’s ordination and gay rights.
Tougher issues loom in large swaths of Africa, Asia and Latin America, southern nations where 70 percent of the world’s Catholics live. A huge demographic shift since 1900 has seen the Catholic population in the Western democracies fall from 70 percent to less than a third of the global church.
In many countries where the church is surging, at least numerically, survival is a core concern: access to clean water, passable roads, health care, education and safety for women and children.
Jason Berry reports from Rome.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 4:02 PM ET
Black, white or... pink?
The Guardian set up the website "Is there white smoke?" for papal conclave watchers.
Meanwhile, some pink smoke made an appearance on Tuesday, as protesters demanding a greater role for women in the Roman Catholic Church set off a pink smoke flare on a hill above the Vatican.
The women wore pink clothes and "Ordain Women" badges.
Read the rest of the story from Reuters.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 3:41 PM ET
Strange bedfellows, or, the irony of real estate
In what can only be described as a case of bizarre bedfellows, the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples office shares an apartment building with the Europa Multiclub Sauna and Gym — a facility that proclaims itself the top gay sauna in all of Italy.
The Vatican reportedly acquired 20 apartments in the building in 2008 for the princely sum of over $26 million, providing a massive payout for the property company that initially acquired the living areas.
Read more on the Vatican's unlikely neighbors here.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 3:24 PM ET
Can a Canadian save the Catholic Church?
MONTREAL, Quebec — Cardinal Marc Ouellet's rise in the Catholic Church comes with the most Canadian of plot twists: a hockey injury.
Sidelined by a broken leg at age 17, he embarked on a search for deeper meaning and decided on a life in the priesthood.
Now, he's considered a contender to become the next pope.
Read the rest of the story here, from Benjamin Shingler in Montreal.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 3:08 PM ET
UPDATE: 3/12/13 2:41 PM ET
Black smoke billows: No pope yet
Black smoke has just poured forth from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel. The world has at least another day to wait.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 2:32 PM ET
Watch the chimney
Anyone who's been following live video of the papal conclave (see above) has now seen this image plenty of times:
That's the unassuming smokestack that will let the world know when voting cardinals have agreed on the next pope. Thanks to chemical additives, white smoke will billow out of the chimney if the men agree; black if they don't. The conclave doesn't end until the fire burns white.
Afraid you'll miss the moment when the new pope is unveiled? Fear not. Modern technology and some enterprising young Catholics have you covered. The US-based Fellowship of Catholic University Students has created the Pope Alarm. Just give them your phone number and your email address, and they'll send you a message at the first sign of white smoke.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 2:05 PM ET
Conclave begins: Oaths of secrecy, then 'Extra Omnes!'
Reuters — The great wooden doors of the Sistine Chapel swung shut Tuesday, indicating the start of a conclave to elect a successor to the retired Benedict XVI.
The 115 "cardinal electors" made their solemn entrance into the famous Vatican chapel graced by Michelangelo's frescoes and swore an oath of secrecy for the duration of their deliberations.
Moments earlier, all non-cardinals were ordered to leave the chapel with the time-honoured Latin phrase "Extra Omnes!" (Everyone Out!).
UPDATE: 3/12/13 12:15 PM ET
What the new pope means to Africa
About 15 percent of the world's estimated 1.2 billion Catholics are in Africa, a continent where Catholicism has spread widely in recent decades, particularly below the Sahara.
"Choosing an African pope would be a big symbolic step — the ecclesiastical equivalent of Obama being voted America's first black president — and would also mean the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church more accurately reflected the make-up of his flock," GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Tristan McConnell wrote from Kenya.
"While numbers of Catholic church-goers are dwindling across Europe and North America, in Africa — and elsewhere in the southern hemisphere — congregations continue to grow," McConnell said, adding that "the Catholic priesthood is growing in Africa as are seminary student bodies."
From South Africa, GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Erin Conway-Smith discussed the region's top contenders to head the Catholic Church:
The leading contender from Africa is widely thought to be Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. Only one other African, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier from South Africa, is considered eligible as a candidate.
While 64-year-old Turkson, the son of a carpenter, was praised for his peacemaker role following Ghana's tense elections in 2008, he drew criticism last year after screening an anti-Islamic video at the synod [council] of bishops.
On Monday, he prayed for wisdom ahead of the papal vote:
Napier, who is 72, told The Witness newspaper from his base of Durban that it would be a “great honor” if the next pope were from Africa.
“Right now we have no indication on who the next pope will be," he said. "What a lot of people are doing is going with what they hear in
the newspapers on who the frontrunners are.”
Napier took to Twitter before heading into the papal conclave, telling his more than 6,500 followers:
A CNN survey of 20,000 people from 11 countries in Africa found many to be hopeful that an African pope might take the lead of the church and maintain conservative values:
UPDATE: 3/12/13 11:51 AM ET
A moment of truth for the Catholic Church: Will new pope bring reform?
ROME — The Italian press is suggesting that two candidates who have emerged as frontrunners to become the next pope represent opposing sides of a major rift within the church: an old guard that controls the Vatican against a crop of reformers seeking to confront the church's problems and shift the way the church operates.
Old-guard forces loyal to Dean of College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano, 85, are said to be throwing support to Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the Brazilian of German descent. But Sodano's main rival, current Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, is backing Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan.
Read the rest of this story here, and follow GlobalPost's Jason Berry as he reports from Rome.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 11:00 AM ET
Hunger Games, Vaticano style
Twas the start of the conclave and all throughout Rome, streets were abuzz 'bout votes under the dome.
The red drapes were hung o'er the windows with care, in hopes that white smoke puffs soon would be there.
Soon being the operative word, of course.
In recent memory, the selection of the next pope has generally been a quick affair. In fact, the longest papal conclave since the beginning of the 20th century lasted only five days.
However, the election of the pope has not always been known for its brevity.
Back in the 13th century, it took nearly three years to install a new pope, and the conclave could have lasted even longer if the local townspeople hadn't resorted to drastic measures.
In fact, two years and eight months into the conclave mentioned above, townspeople tried everything to encourage a quicker decision. Frustrated and impatient, locals rioted and locked the cardinals inside before resorting to more extreme measures — namely starving the cardinals and tearing the roof off the building to expose them to the elements, according to ABC News.
Conditions became so harsh that two cardinals died and a third had to leave due to ill health before the remaining electors eventually chose Gregory as the next pope.
Determined to make sure that such an ordeal would never happen again, Pope Gregory ruled in 1274 that in the future, cardinals would be locked in a single room with an adjoining lavatory in the papal palace within 10 days of a pontiff's death.
Read the rest of this story here.
UPDATE: 3/12/13 8:59 AM ET
There are 115 cardinals meeting in Vatican City, but they can only choose one pope
The Vatican is set to elect its 266th pope, as 115 Roman Catholic cardinals gather in Vatican City for the closed-door selection of the religious leader, which begins Tuesday evening.
Early in the day, the cardinals attended mass at St. Peter's Basilica.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano gave the homily and called for cooperation and unity, according to CNN.
"My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart," Sodano told the congregation.
But as the conclave comes together, there's no clear frontrunner set to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
Read the rest of this story here.
Watch Associated Press video of conclave preparations: