7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
World News

Cardinals destroy John Paul's ring

VATICAN CITY: Roman Catholic cardinals destroyed the late Pope John Paul's ring and seal yesterday in a symbolic end to his authority before secluding themselves from the world to elect his successor. The cardinals will begin their conclave tomorrow, and the Vatican said smoke would pour from a chimney above the Sistine Chapel twice a day to tell the world whether or not a new Pope had been elected.

At the meeting the cardinals watched an ancient ritual marking the transition between two Popes - the destruction of John Paul's "Fisherman's Ring" and his lead seal, two symbols of his authority.

During John Paul's 26-year pontificate and his many trips across the world, countless pilgrims kissed the gold signet ring.

At 4.30pm (1430 GMT) tomorrow, the 115 cardinals under the age of 80 with the right to choose a new Pope will file in solemn procession into the Sistine Chapel, with its Michelangelo frescoes, where voting takes place. They come from 52 nations.

The cardinals will hold up to four ballots a day - two in the morning and two in the afternoon - until they elect the 265th pontiff in the 2,000-year history of the Church.

Smoke signals above the Sistine Chapel - black smoke for an indecisive vote or white for a new Pope - are expected at around noon (1000 GMT) and 7pm (1700 GMT).

As in 1978 when John Paul II was elected, there was no clear favourite before the first conclave of the 21st century.

Tomorrow afternoon, after they swear an oath of secrecy and fidelity to the regulations governing the centuries-old election ritual, the cardinals will decide whether to hold a first ballot that night or to start voting on Tuesday morning.

The cardinals for the first time in centuries will live in a modern hotel, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, inside the Vatican and not in makeshift quarters around the Sistine Chapel. They will move in today.

Tomorrow morning, cardinals will preside at a public Mass in St Peter's Basilica.

The cardinals can walk the several hundred metres between the hotel and the chapel or take a special bus. But the route will be off limits to all outsiders.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told a pre-conclave briefing the smoke signal times were "purely approximate" and that when a new Pope was chosen the bells of St Peter's Basilica would ring out to accompany the white smoke so there would be no confusion.

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