VATICAN CITY – Cardinals are celebrating a final Mass before they sequester themselves in the Sistine Chapel for the conclave to elect the next pope.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, was leading today’s Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica even though he is too old to vote.
In the afternoon, 115 cardinals will file into the frescoed Sistine Chapel singing the Litany of Saints, a hypnotic Gregorian chant imploring the intercession of saints to help them choose a pope. They will hear a meditation by an elderly Maltese cardinal, take an oath of secrecy, then in all probability cast their first ballots.
Assuming they vote, the first puffs of smoke should emerge from the chapel chimney by 8 p.m.; black for no pope, white if a pope has been chosen.