(AP) Cardinals celebrated a final Mass on Tuesday before sequestering themselves in the Sistine Chapel for the conclave to elect the next pope, seeking to overcome their divisions and rally behind a single man who can lead the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church and tend to its many problems.
As a Gregorian chant filled St. Peter's Basilica, the 115 cardinals who will participate in the conclave filed in wearing bright red vestments, many looking grim as if the burden of the imminent vote was weighing on them.
In his homily, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, called for unity within the church, a not-so-veiled appeal to the cardinal electors to put their differences aside for the good of the church.
LONGEST CONCLAVE: In 1268, a conclave began that lasted nearly three years - 33 months to be exact. Pope Gregory X was elected pope, but not before residents of Viterbo, north of Rome, tore the roof off the building where the cardinals were staying and restricted their meals to bread and water to make them hurry up.
Hoping to avoid a repeat, Gregory decreed in 1274 that cardinals would only get one meal a day if the conclave stretched beyond three days, and served bread, water and wine if it went beyond eight. While the meals served these days at the Vatican's hotel are by no means gourmet, the cardinals won't go hungry - no matter how long they take picking a pope.
SHORTEST CONCLAVE: Before 1274, there were times when a pope was elected the same day as the death of his predecessor. After that, however, the church decided to wait at least 10 days before the first vote; later that was stretched to 15 days to give all cardinals time to get to Rome. The quickest conclave observing the 10-day wait rule appears to have been the 1503 election of Julius II, who was elected in just a few hours, according to Vatican historian Ambrogio Piazzoni.
YOUNGEST/OLDEST POPE ELECTED: Pope John XII was just 18 when he was elected in 955. The oldest popes were Pope Celestine III (elected in 1191) and Celestine V (elected in 1294) who were both nearly 85. Benedict XVI was 78 when he was elected in 2005.
NOT ALWAYS A CARDINAL: The last time a pope was elected who wasn't a cardinal was Urban VI in 1378 - he was a monk and archbishop of Bari.
He was interrupted by applause from the pews - not so much from the cardinals - when he referred to the "beloved and venerated" Benedict XVI and his "brilliant" pontificate.
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Benedict's surprise resignation - the first in 600 years by a pope - has thrown the church into turmoil and exposed the deep divisions among cardinals who are grappling with whether they need a manager who can clean up the Vatican's dysfunctional bureaucracy or a pastor who can inspire Catholics at a time of waning faith.
In the afternoon, the 115 cardinal electors will file into the frescoed Sistine Chapel singing the Litany of Saints, a hypnotic chant imploring the intercession of saints to help them choose a pope. They will hear a meditation by an elderly Maltese cardinal, take an oath of secrecy, then in all probability cast their first ballots.
Assuming they vote, the first puffs of smoke should emerge from the chapel chimney by 8 p.m. (1900 GMT; 3 p.m. EDT) - black for no pope, white if a pope has been chosen.
Of the 115 cardinals will elect the next pope, all of them were created either by Benedict XVI or Pope John Paul II, ensuring that whoever is chosen will follow in their conservative line.
Here's their geographic distribution:
EUROPE: 60 electors, or more than half the bloc. Italy alone claims 28, followed by Germany with six.
NORTH AMERICA: 14 electors, with 11 from the United States and three from Canada.
LATIN AMERICA: 19 electors. Brazil has the most with five.
AFRICA: 11 electors, with Nigeria counting two.
ASIA: 10 electors, with India counting five.
OCEANIA: One elector: Sydney Cardinal George Pell
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|The voting process follows a set ritual every day until the Catholic Church has a new leader. Here is an approximate schedule. Local time listed first.|
- 10 a.m.-11:45 a.m. (5 a.m.-6:45 a.m. EDT; 0900-1045 GMT): Cardinals attend Mass in St Peter's Basilica, then return to their Vatican hotel.
- 3:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m. EDT; 1445 GMT): Cardinals travel from their hotel to the Apostolic Palace.
- 4:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. EDT; 1530 GMT): Procession from the Pauline Chapel into the Sistine Chapel.
- 4:45 p.m.-8 p.m. (11:45 a.m.-3 p.m. EDT; 1545-1900 GMT): Each cardinal takes an oath, most likely followed by the first vote. If the vote yields a new pope, white smoke will emerge from the chimney; if not the smoke will be black.
- 8 p.m. (3 p.m. EDT; 1900 GMT): Cardinals pray in the Sistine Chapel.
- 8:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m. EDT; 1930 GMT): Cardinals return to their hotel.
WEDNESDAY AND ONWARD
- 7:45 a.m. (2:45 a.m. EDT; 0645 GMT): Cardinals travel to the Pauline Chapel.
- 8:15 a.m. (3:15 a.m. EDT; 0715 GMT): Mass in the Pauline Chapel.
- 9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. EDT; 0830 GMT): Prayer in the Sistine Chapel, voting starts.
- 12:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT; 1130 GMT): Cardinals retire to their hotel for lunch.
- 4 p.m. (11 a.m. EDT; 1500 GMT): Cardinals return to the Sistine Chapel.
- 4:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. EDT; 1540 GMT): Voting in the Sistine Chapel.
- 7:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT; 1815 GMT): Prayer in the Sistine Chapel.
- 7:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. EDT; 1830 GMT): Cardinals return to their hotel.
After every three full days of voting, the cardinals break for a day of prayer and reflection, then resume for another three days. The first pause will be on Saturday if no pope has been selected before that.
Smoke will emerge from the chimney once at the end of the morning session - about 12 p.m. (7 a.m. EDT; 1100 GMT) - and again at the end of the afternoon session - about 7 p.m. (2 p.m. EDT; 1800 GMT). But if an earlier vote yields a pope, white smoke would emerge at that time, ending the conclave.
Once white smoke emerges from the chimney, a bell at the St. Peter's Basilica rings. Within an hour, the man who was selected emerges onto the balcony and his identity is known.