VATICAN CITY — Cardinals remained divided over who should be pope on Wednesday after three rounds of voting, an indication that disagreements remain about the direction of the Catholic Church following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation.
In the second day of the conclave, thick black smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, prompting sighs of disappointment from the thousands of people gathered in a rain-soaked and chilly St. Peter’s Square.
“I’m not happy to see black smoke. We all want white,” said the Rev. ThankGod Okoroafor, a Nigerian priest studying theology at Holy Cross University in Rome. “But maybe it means that the cardinals need to take time, not to make a mistake in the choice.”
The Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi insisted that the continued balloting was part of the natural course of the election and didn’t signal divisions among cardinals. He noted that only once in the past century had a pope been elected on the third ballot: Pope Pius XII, elected on the eve of World War II.
“This is very normal,” he said. “It’s not a sign of particular divisions within the college, but rather of a normal process of discernment.”
A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.
That said, a conclave has rarely before taken place against the backdrop of a papal resignation and revelations of mismanagement, petty bickering, infighting and corruption in the Holy See bureaucracy. Those revelations, exposed by the leaks of papal documents last year, have divided the College of Cardinals into camps seeking a radical reform of the Holy See’s governance and those defending the status quo.
After the third ballot, the cardinals broke for lunch at the Vatican hotel and were returning for another two rounds of voting Wednesday afternoon.