Smoke watch: Day 2 afternoon; Update: White Smoke!

(VATICAN CITY) The cardinals have returned to the Sistine Chapel for two more votes after lunch, and after an unusual press briefing from La Sala Stampa.  The Vatican moved the briefing for the first time to the center in which I’ve been working for the last few days, and apparently will keep the 1 pm conference in this location.

This time, however, they got asked a question about Cardinal Roger Mahony’s participation, which produced a brusque response.  A reporter asked a lengthy question in Italian about the retired Archbishop of Los Angeles and his role in the conclave in light of accusations from SNAP over his role in covering up abuse in his diocese, a question that (like the others) didn’t get translated to the rest of the press.  Father Federico Lombardi, visibly annoyed, gave a shorter answer, which Father Thomas Rosica paraphrased into an even shorter answer in English.  “We are well aware of SNAP and its activities,” Rosica said, and told the media that SNAP was using the conclave to “amplify” accusations against Mahony and others.  The men in question reflected on those accusations and decided to attend, and Rosica finished by saying that the Vatican respected those cardinals and the decisions they made.  I doubt this will be the last time the media asks about this, however.

Otherwise, it was a more relaxed and friendly briefing.  All three priests gave their personal reflections about participating in the procession yesterday, and offered a few jokes to lighten the mood before and after the Mahoney question.  They reported getting a number of calls yesterday after the prodigious amount of smoke from the first ballot last night, and wanted to assure everyone that the Sistine Chapel was still in good condition and that none of the cardinals had any medical issues with the smoke.  They began to explain the chemical composition of the canisters which produce the colored smoke, but advised reporters to wait to read the ingredients in a press release.  “I don’t study this stuff,” Rosica explained with a laugh, “I study the Bible.”

One other point became more firm, too, which I have confirmed with one of the media.  The installation Mass for the new Pope will not take place until next week at the earliest — even if this afternoon produces a new Pope.  He may or may not do the Angelus as traditional on Sunday, but he won’t celebrate the Mass.

For now, we are about 90 minutes or so into the afternoon session.  If the first ballot produces a Pope, then we will see white smoke immediately.  If not, we’ll have to wait for the result of the second ballot for either black or white smoke, and that could be as late as 7 pm Rome time, 90 minutes from now.  The morning smoke was about an hour early, though, so they may wrap up early tonight even if no consensus has been reached.

In the meantime, here’s an interview I conducted earlier today with Kim Daniels of Catholic Voices USA, talking about the need to offer a positive outreach to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and how the conclave offers a great opportunity to do so.

I’ll update this post either way depending on the outcome of the ballot.  Stay tuned.

Update: There has been a pigeon sitting on top of the chimney for the last 20 minutes or so.  If it was a dove, I’d call it a sign.  If the chimney fires up, it might just be … squab.

Update II: Actually, a friend I made from Ireland tells me it’s a gull, not a pigeon.  Not sure how smoked gull tastes, but we can certainly give it a try.

Update III: White Smoke! And the bells are ringing in St. Peter’s Square.  That’s confirmation!!

Update IV: I ran out to St. Peter’s Square with just my camera and no other equipment.  I’ll post some video shortly.