Connect to share and comment

Hoping for a pope on rainy second day of conclave


Catholics gathered from the early morning in St Peter's Square on Wednesday for the first full day of a conclave to elect a new pope, saying they wanted a compassionate leader who would bring hope to the world.

There were disappointed faces among the faithful huddled under umbrellas in a rainy Vatican, after black smoke billowed from the Sistine Chapel's chimney, meaning cardinals had failed to choose a pontiff in the day's first two votes.

But as priests and nuns from around the world filmed the smoke on their tablets or smartphones, many faithful said they remained hopeful for white smoke later Wednesday.

"There's a great atmosphere, we're not just waiting for white smoke, we're waiting to see a leader emerge who can open up the Church to the modern world," said Jean Chiche, who had come with his wife and daughter from Paris.

Several thousand people gathered in the square, some of the faithful kneeling to pray, others sitting on camping chairs and reading aloud passages from the Bible.

"It's the first time I've travelled to the Vatican to see a conclave, but I really felt this time more than any other that the world needs the hope a good pope would bring us," said 71-year-old Brazilian priest Giuseppe Almaida.

"I hope whoever is elected takes the name Clementine, because in this world of wars, suffering and sadness we need clemency," said Almaida, wearing a Brazil baseball cap to show support for Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer, tipped as a possible pope.

Carla Morino, an American student at the Catholic St. Mary's College in Indiana, said she too was backing Scherer, or the relatively young Filipino hopeful Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.

"We need someone with more charisma and international leadership skills -- not just another Italian or European," she said.

Shinzo Kawamura, a priest from Tokyo, said he hoped the new pope would be Italian or American, because "cardinals from other countries may not have the right experience to tackle issues like growing secularism in the West".

Leaving the square to grab a plate of pasta before the afternoon voting begins, priest Michael Kilmartin from Ireland said he thought the conclave would last for another few days because "there are several outstanding candidates".

"What we need is a leader who can speak the language of the people and bring the Church back to society.

"I was backing (Italian cardinal) Angelo Scola at the last conclave in 2005, and I'm doing so again this time. I believe he really has the skills to reform the Church from the ground up," he said.

Sheltered from the rain under the balustrades surrounding the square, many families and pilgrims said they had come at daybreak to snag the best view of the Sistine Chapel chimney and had brought picnics to get them through the day.

"We've got bread, cheese, ham. A simple fare to give us the energy to pray for as long and as hard as we can -- the cardinals need our support," said Filippo Gartuglio, who had come to Rome with members of his local parish in Venice.

Elizabeth Carter from Wales said she was glad the electors were not rushing their decision.

"It can't be easy to decide who has the qualities needed to face today's challenges: who is strong enough to tackle sex abuse? Who can clean up the Church's image and make us proud to be Catholic again?" the 34-year old said.