Okay, maybe His Holiness isn’t being announced today, but in the first public sign that the Vatican is preparing to choose a new pontiff, workers at the Sistine Chapel on Saturday installed the chimney that will alert the world when the new pope is chosen.
The chimney will emit black smoke if no consensus is reached and white smoke when the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics is finally elected.
The task of choosing the 266th pope will fall upon 115 cardinal electors, who will meet beginning Tuesday in a conclave under the frescoes of the Renaissance master Michelangelo. Once the conclave begins, the cardinals are effectively sequestered -- prohibited from both leaving the Vatican City and speaking with anyone outside the conclave. Cardinal electors include representatives from all over the Catholic world. Of the 115 votes, the United States has 11, the largest representation of any country next to Italy, according to CNN.
Pope Benedict XVI stepped down last week and was helicoptered from the Vatican City to the papal summer home residence of Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles southwest of Rome. He was the first sitting pope to step down from the position in almost 600 years.