- Created on 13 March 2013
(CNN) -- Cardinals from around the world have been gathering in Michelangelo's masterpiece the Sistine Chapel this week for a conclave to elect a new pope. The historic process is filled with pomp and ceremony and so shrouded in secrecy that its very name means "under lock and key."
But it's a curious idiosyncrasy that, in an era when one of Benedict's XVI's final acts was to send a message via Twitter -- and his predecessor ordered that the Sistine Chapel be swept for recording devices -- the conclave's election of a new pope was announced on Wednesday evening by white smoke from burning ballot papers. Black fumes earlier signified an inconclusive vote.
And until the official announcement of "Habemus Papam -- we have a new pope" -- is made around an hour later, it is a modest little stove and chimney that stole the show.
The Vatican says the cast iron stove is "cylindrical in shape with a narrower upper portion" and approximately one meter high. "It has a door in its lower section enabling ignition, a valve for manual regulation of the draft and an upper door through which the documents to be burnt are introduced. The dates of election to the papacy and the names of the last six pontiffs are stamped on the upper cap of the stove."
CNN's senior Vatican analyst John Allen said the "oldish-looking" stove and its attached chimney were introduced to preserve the independence of the conclave process.
"The whole purpose of the secrecy is to protect the cardinals from outside influence," he said, the theory being that details of the ballot papers could expose the cardinals to repercussions or other pressures.
The Vatican's constitution requires a two-thirds majority to elect a new pope.
On the first day of the conclave, one voting session is held: on other days the cardinals vote twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. If a second ballot must be taken immediately, the first bundle of ballots and any private notes are burned with the second. The cardinals chosen to be scrutineers are responsible for burning the ballots, with help from the secretary of the College of Cardinals and masters of ceremonies, who are allowed to enter the chapel after voting has concluded.
Depending on how long the cardinals take to agree, pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square could be reading smoke signals for days on end. And those signals haven't always been particularly clear.
Frederic Baumgartner, professor of history at Virginia Tech University and author of "Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections," said that before the 1800s, "beginning to unbar doors and window was taken as a symbol that the election was complete. There was also mention of noise from where the cardinals were locked in and the firing of cannons at Castel Sant' Angelo."
In the 19th century, Baumgartner said, there was mention of smoke being "taken as meaning that there had been no election - and that they were burning the ballots after scrutiny. The smoke was described often as yellow. What I get from the sources that I was reading from the 1800s is that when they didn't see smoke then they were hopeful."
But the first reference to the different meanings of white or black smoke occurred at the 1903 conclave. "The primary reason they went for the black and white smoke was because there was confusion in the crowds as to what was going on," Baumgartner explained.
But the confusion didn't stop there.
Priest and archivist Fr. Nicholas Schofield said that in the event of an inconclusive ballot, wet straw had traditionally been added to the fire to make the smoke black. But uncertainty around the results of a 1958 conclave had led to the introduction of chemicals to make the color of the smoke more obvious.
Nonetheless, CNN's senior Vatican analyst, John Allen, said smoke from the fire "normally comes out an indistinct grey at the start." At the 1978 conclave that resulted in the election of Pope John Paul II there were some false alarms and John Paul II later specified that the bells of St. Peters be rung to signify a successful election. "The problem with that is that bells go off at the Vatican all the time."
At Pope Benedict XVI's election in 2005, Allen recalled, bells had rung out at the same time as smoke came from the Sistine Chapel chimney, but it transpired that they were just marking the top of the hour.
The confusion occurred despite the introduction that year of an auxiliary smoke-emitting device aimed at improving the visibility of the smoke.
"In order to improve the draft, the vent is preheated by means of electric resistance and it's equipped with a ventilator for use if necessary," the Vatican said in a statement.
Ahead of this year's conclave, spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the chemical technique had been improved to ensure a clear color signal.
Once the senior cardinal deacon appears on the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square to formally announce the election of a new pope and his name, the little stove's time in the spotlight should be over and the focus will then move to the pope elect.
"He's supposed to act as if it's a difficult decision and then he has to be fitted with his vestments," Baumgartner said, estimating the appearance might come about an hour after the smoke signal. "If a man was really conflicted about the job, he may take a little longer."
Baumgartner said that he was not aware of any wrong announcements about a new pope being made in modern times - but there had been some in the past.
"There used to be a tradition that the Romans [residents of Rome] would go and ransack the dwelling of the cardinal that was elected -- on the grounds that he didn't need it anymore. There was at least one example of the Rome's residents ransacking the house of the wrong cardinal, during the 400-500 years the tradition was followed.
"Not only did he not become pope but he didn't have anything left in his house."
- Created on 13 March 2013
(CNN) -- Black smoke poured from the chimney fixed to the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday morning, indicating that the cardinals' first two votes of the day were inconclusive.
The 115 voting cardinals are taking part in the second day of the secretive conclave to elect a new pope.
They will have two more opportunities to vote later Wednesday.
A two-thirds majority is required to confirm a new pontiff to step into the shoes left empty by the historic resignation of Benedict XVI at the end of last month.
Whoever it may be will take on the leadership of a church that has been rocked by child sex abuse scandals and corruption claims in recent years.
White or black smoke?
No smoke emerged after the first vote Wednesday morning, meaning the cardinals then entered a second round of voting.
The black smoke that poured from the chimney at 11:39 a.m. (6:39 a.m. ET) indicated that no result came from that second ballot, either.
The cardinals have now gone to lunch in the Vatican hotel where they are staying. While away from the Sistine Chapel, they are able to have informal conversations and mull their options.
The smoke came somewhat earlier in the day than expected Wednesday because once the cardinals are familiar with the voting procedures, they can move relatively quickly, according to the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman.
However, that does not mean they are moving rapidly toward a decisive vote.
The cardinals will go back into the Sistine Chapel, famed for its frescoes by Michelangelo, for a second round of balloting at 4 p.m. (11 a.m. ET), and all eyes will then return to the chimney.
Three ballots have been held so far.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters that the inconclusive results so far were not unexpected, based on the number of ballots held in past conclaves.
Rosica added, "This is normal and one should not interpret this as division amongst the cardinals."
In response to a question about criticism leveled against some cardinals by a group representing the victims of clerical sex abuse, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, the Vatican spokesmen defended their right to take part in the conclave.
"We are very well of SNAP and their activities," Rosica said. "SNAP have chosen this event to amplify their activities."
The cardinals named by SNAP "are worthy of our esteem," he said.
Last week, SNAP released its "Dirty Dozen" list of men it judged would be the worst candidates for pope because of their handling of, or comments on, past allegations of child sex abuse against clergy.
The scandal has shaken global confidence in the church in recent years, and dealing with it effectively is sure to be a priority for the new pope.
Peal of Vatican bells
The cardinals will conduct four votes a day for three days, Lombardi said, with a break likely on Saturday if no one has been elected by then. The day's pause would allow the cardinals time for further discussions before they cast their ballots again.
Two stoves are set up in the Sistine Chapel especially for the votes. The ballots are burned in one, while special cartridges containing a mix of chemicals are released in the other to make the color of the smoke more obvious, either black or white, Rosica said.
The cartridges produce smoke for about seven minutes, he said.
If a pope has been elected, the cardinals burn the ballots immediately. If not, the cardinals hold on to them and proceed to a second round of voting.
They burn the ballots from both rounds together after the second round.
In the past, discerning the color has been difficult at times, as it has appeared gray. But there is a second, unmistakable sign: If the smoke is indeed white, the Vatican church bells ring to celebrate the choice.
This can happen after a short delay, as was the case when the white smoke went up to signal the election of Benedict XVI.
In any case, the wait for the announcement of a new church leader should not be too long. The longest papal conclave in the past century took just five days.
If a new pope is in place by Sunday, he would probably lead the Angelus prayers on that day, Lombardi said. The first public Mass would be the inauguration Mass.
Black smoke also billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday night, after the cardinals failed to choose a new pope in the first vote of their conclave.
Huddled under umbrellas as rain came down, crowds of onlookers watched the chimney and big screens set up in St. Peter's Square.
Filipino priest and CNN iReporter Joel Camaya was among a number of Catholic faithful in the square who watched as the black smoke poured out.
There was "a collective sigh of disappointment and everyone started heading home," he said. "There was no pope, yet."
The public interest reflects the "very intense and beautiful period" the church is experiencing at the moment, Lombardi said. "We are feeling the level of intensity of the wait. We saw many people in the square last night, a lot more than I myself had expected."
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI also watched on television as the black smoke rose on Tuesday, Lombardi said.
Benedict had earlier watched on TV as the scarlet-clad cardinals attended a special Mass and took their oath of secrecy in the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave to elect his successor, he said.
The Vatican received calls Tuesday night from people concerned that the heavy black smoke might have caused damage to the Sistine Chapel or created problems for the cardinals, Rosica said.
But, he said, he could confirm that the frescoes have not been damaged and that the cardinals are enjoying good health.
The cardinals will remain locked in isolation until one candidate, almost certainly from among their number, garners a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes, and is named the new spiritual head of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Until that moment, the cardinals are barred from communicating with the outside world in any way. Jamming devices have been installed to prevent the use of cell phones or other devices.
The cardinals stay in the Casa Santa Marta, a Vatican City hotel, for the duration of the conclave, moving from there to the Pauline Chapel to pray or the Sistine Chapel to vote.
Applause echoed around St. Peter's Basilica on Tuesday as Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, offered thanks for the "brilliant pontificate" of Benedict, whose unexpected resignation precipitated the selection of a new pope.
When cardinals elected Benedict in 2005, after a conclave that ran into a second day, the white smoke signaling the decision came about six hours after an earlier, inconclusive vote.
Benedict is currently staying at the summer papal residence, Castel Gandolfo, while restoration work is carried out on a small monastery within Vatican City. Once it is ready, he will live out his days there in study and prayer.
CNN's Richard Allen Greene and Hada Messia reported from Rome and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN's Ben Brumfield and Stephen Howie contributed to this report.
- Created on 11 March 2013
Grammy Award nominated, Dove, Stellar, GMWA, NAACP Image Award winning singer Dottie Peoples added another honor to her already impressive list of accolades during the 14th Allstate Gospel Superfest national TV recording and festival in Atlanta on Saturday, March 9. She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her accomplishments in Gospel music.
Dottie's distinctive voice always garnered attention. After seeing her perform in Dayton, Ohio, early on in her career, Dorothy Norwood enlisted Dottie to join her on tour opening for the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder.
After touring with Norwood and the Rolling Stones, Peoples returned to Ohio where she developed quite a reputation as a jazz vocalist. "I sang jazz until I moved to Atlanta and joined Salem Baptist Church and started singing in services," Dottie Remembers. "The first solo I did was called 'If You Move Yourself.' It changed my whole life because I stood there and realized that I was blessing people. I knew I didn't want to sing jazz anymore. I just want to sing for the Lord. I got back to my roots and I've been singing gospel ever since."
In addition to singing, Peoples is also an astute businesswoman. She served as general manager of Church Door Records and also launched her own radio show. After 14 years with Church Door, Peoples signed with AIR Records and took her career to another level, earning her first Stellar Award nomination. Her AIR release, "On Time God," rocketed to No. 1 on the charts and earned her four Stellar Awards and a nomination for Soul Train's Lady of Soul Award. Peoples has continued to garner more than 50 industry accolades, including the 2010 Stellar for Traditional Female Vocalist of the Year. She launched her own label DP Muzik Group in 2008 on which her latest CD, "I Got This Live" was released in February and will introduce a new radio show, "I Got This," set to air on the Rejoice Network, beginning in April.
The Allstate Gospel Superfest "Live In Atlanta" will be hosted by TV star Wendy Raquel Robinson, who is known for her lead role as the character "Tasha Mack" on the hit BET Network series "The Game." The lineup of artists scheduled to appear includes Dottie, The Chicago Mass Choir, Tramaine Hawkins, Dorinda Clark-Cole, DeWayne Woods, Byron Cage, Earnest Pugh, Beverly Crawford, Ricky Dillard & New G, Regina Belle, and others. The one-day event will take place at the Georgia International Convention Center, 2000 Convention Center Concourse, Atlanta, GA 30337 on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. EDT. Tickets are on sale now at www.ticketweb.com or by calling 866-468-7619.
More information on The Allstate Gospel Superfest is available at www.gospelsuperfest.com. The recordings from the event are scheduled to air in national syndication during the months of March and June of 2013.
- Created on 12 March 2013
If there is one thing in life we are guaranteed it is that things will change. How we react to change is what builds our character. Change is what allows us to become the people we want to be and need to be. There is a process to becoming different. There is a process to dealing with different. The first thing to do is acknowledge it.
We can reflect on the fact that our lives are evolving circles of light. Scripture advises that we are constantly becoming new.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed
Courage to change the things
which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen
May this start to a new week bring you change that makes you a great person.
- Created on 11 March 2013
Who is Cardinal Robert Sarah?
Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea is currently the President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (the Vatican's charitable arm) and a strong candidate for pope in the upcoming March 2013 papal conclave. He would be the first African pope in history.
His origins: Cardinal Sarah was born June 15, 1945 in French Guinea. After studying in a seminary in the Ivory Coast, Sarah returned to Guinea after it achieved independence in 1958. He soon left for Paris, then Senegal, then Rome to complete his studies. He received his ordination in 1969.
His career track: In 1979, Sarah was named Archbishop of Conakry, the capital city of Guinea. John Paul II appointed him secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 2001. Then, less than a decade later, Sarah was chosen to lead "Cor Unum," which organizes the Catholic church's relief effort. That same year, 2010, Benedict XVI made Sarah a cardinal.
His beliefs: Cardinal Sarah is a conservative in theological matters, but progressive on issues like social justice and economic equality. He's also an outspoken critic of authoritarian regimes.
Why he might be pope: Many experts believe the next pope will be non-European. Cardinal Robert Sarah bridges the Vatican to Africa, where the Catholic population is exploding. Yet, he's also a Vatican insider with a strong record of governance.