Tuesday, March 12, 2013

After Round One, È Nera

The First Scrutiny having been completed, at 7.41pm Rome, the Black Smoke billowed out of the Sistine Chimney. 

As previously mentioned, the opening ballot's principal purpose is to provide the first complete picture of who the electors view as contenders (and don't), allowing early bases of significant support to be built upon, and less prevalent ones to be winnowed into other blocs. 

In other words, only on the basis of tonight's snapshot does the papal "horse-race" – which the Italians have dubbed "Il Totopapa," the "Popestakes" – begin in earnest. With the cardinals now locked away and cut off from the world outside for the duration, though, only after the 266th Pontiff emerges will we learn how that shaped out.

The day's official business ended, the cardinals are being transported back to the "Conclave Hotel" at the Domus for dinner in common and discussions likely to extend into the night.

The usual voting pattern begins tomorrow as Ballots 2 and 3 get underway at 9.30am Rome. Expected to be another round of black, the smoke signaling the combined end of both votes can be expected sometime around Vatican Noon. Barring a resolution, Ballots 4 and 5 would then start at 4.30pm, with their smoke to come in the area of 6pm or later. (Repeat cycle until white smoke or, should it be necessary, the mandatory pause-day for reflection would kick in, apparently on Saturday.)

For purposes of context, the 2005 election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – tipped by many as the "front-runner" – as Benedict XVI took four ballots; the October 1978 result that saw Karol Wojtyla become John Paul II took eight ballots. 

Beyond that, folks, the next few days will all just be the ultimate exercise in "hurry up and wait." 

As always, stay tuned.