For the first time in over half a century, cardinals are deciding on their next pope, bound together in secrecy to decide the fate of The Roman Catholic Church. This time around they join to decide the next pope, because a pope has resigned, rather than departed his duties by death. Pilgrims are turning out in Vatican City in record numbers to see history unveiled.
"Thousands of pilgrims and tourists waited in line to get inside St. Peter's Basilica early Tuesday for a special pre-conclave Mass with Roman Catholic cardinals who were preparing to choose the next pope," adds NBC News.
"The “Mass Pro Eligendo Pontifice” began at 10 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) in front of a congregation of worshippers who were waiting outside in St. Peter's Square for tickets allocated on a first-come, first-served basis," added the report on MSN.
“It’s in the air! You really feel it,” said Lois Girten, 55, from Austin, Texas, who secured a last-minute place on a two-week pilgrimage to Rome through a cancellation. Lois Girten, 55, from Austin, Texas, was among those waiting in line to get inside the pre-conclave Mass at St Peter's Basilica, on Tuesday, added NBC News.
“It’s God’s gift that I’m in Rome just as the conclave takes place. I’m almost speechless with excitement, it’s a real treat for me,” she added.
Mara Pankow, 21, and Brenna Stein, 18, college students from Hankinson, North Dakota, who are in Rome for spring break, joined the line even though they had already been inside the basilica, added NBC News.
“We’ve already been on a tour of the inside but we thought it would be amazing to see a Mass on the day the conclave starts,” Pankow said to NBC. “We’re very lucky to be here at the same time as the conclave. It’s awesome,” Stein added.
Several thousand visitors were allowed in to take part in the service, according to Religion News Service correspondent Alessandro Speciale inside the basilica, added the report on MSN.
Vatican prays for new pope
In his homily, cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, told the congregation: “My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart,” added NBC.
Deliberation and voting in the papal conclave, which takes places in the 16th century Sistine Chapel, won’t begin until after 5 p.m. local time (12 p.m. ET) Tuesday.
"Before that, there’ll be more ceremony: After lunch, the 115 cardinals eligible to vote will move from their temporary residential quarters at in the Casa Santa Marta to the Pauline Chapel from where they will form a procession into the Sistine Chapel," added the report.
The procession will be in reverse order of Vatican hierarchy, starting with Cardinal Deacon James Michael Harvey from Milwaukee and ending with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the highest-ranking cardinal in the Roman curia, added NBC.
"It will be the last time they are seen publicly until they choose the new pope – a process that could take several days and will be heralded by the appearance of white smoke from the chimney above the chapel. In the meantime, they will be isolated from the outside world and banned from using cellphones or watching television," according to the report.
"There's a growing tension between those who seek institutional tradition and those who want to move the Catholic Church forward and reenergize its ranks," NBC's Anne Thompson reports, according to MSNBC.
"Once inside, each will swear an oath of secrecy -- a breach is punishable by ex-communication -- before an official proclaims in Latin “Extra omnes,” meaning all others present must leave," adds the report.
The oath-taking process is expected to last up to an hour, and will be followed by mediation and prayer led by Cardinal Prosper Grech, according to NBC.
"When the voting finally begins Tuesday, there will be one round of voting in the late afternoon, followed by two every morning and two every afternoon until someone gets two-thirds of the votes," added the report.
"During the day, cardinals will deliberate inside the Sistine Chapel beneath Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam." At night, they will be taken by shuttle bus the short distance to the modest rooms in Casa Santa Marta, which John Paul II had built in 1996," according to the report on MSNBC.
"Such is the importance of secrecy that Vatican officials have installed jamming devices to prevent the use of cellphones by cardinals or hidden microphones by anyone wanting to hear their deliberations," added NBC. "Although there is no definitive favorite to take the helm, cardinals have been holding a series of General Congregations in recent days to discuss the qualities they would like to see in their new leader."
No conclave has lasted more than five days in the past century, with most finishing within two or three days. Pope Benedict was elected within barely 24 hours in 2005 after just four rounds of voting," added the report.
Benedict triggered the election last month with his shock decision to abdicate because of his increasingly frail health, the first pontiff to step down in six centuries, added the report on MSNBC.
"He leaves his successor a sea of troubles -- including seemingly never-ending sex-abuse scandals, rivalry and strife inside the Vatican bureaucracy, a shortage of priests and a rise of secularism in its European strongholds," adds NBC on MSNBC. Parents and religious educators on Staten Island, www.examiner.com will continue to report on this dramatic, historic story.