VATICAN CITY -- White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday, proclaiming the selection of a new pope by Roman Catholic cardinals on their second day of voting.
The name of the man chosen to replace Pope Benedict XVI will be announced within the next minutes, to the famous Latin phrase “habemus papam" ("we have a pope"). The bells of St. Peter's Basilica tolled to confirm the selection.
Thousands of people who packed St. Peter's Square roared approval and chanted, "habemus papam."
His successor, the 266th pontiff, will be revealed upon making his first appearance from behind red velvet curtains on the main balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. His baptismal name will be read out in Latin.
Taking place out of public view, and based on how the events have unfolded in the past, the winner of the vote was being asked whether he accepted his election and what title he would like to give himself. The new pope would then be hurried into a small, simple, low-ceilinged room off the Sistine Chapel known as the Room of Tears.
There, he would find three sizes of white vestments (large, medium and small) fashioned by Rome tailor Gammarelli, and several boxes of shoes to try on. The room is named after the popes who have wept with emotion as they tried on their new robes.
He was then scheduled to pause in the Pauline Chapel next to the Sistine for a solitary prayer, a step added to the formalities by Benedict. The pontiff would find himself alone in front of huge frescoes by Michelangelo depicting St. Peter being crucified upside down and St. Paul being struck by lightning.
Among the cardinals considered leading candidates for the throne of St. Peter are senior prelates from Italy, Brazil and Canada. If the new pope is not from Europe, it will be the first time a non-European has been elected pontiff in nearly 1,300 years.
The 115 cardinals eligible to vote for the new pope held their first ballot Tuesday inside the Renaissance splendor of the Sistine Chapel, and two more sessions were held Wednesday morning and two in the late afternoon. A candidate had to receive at least two thirds of the vote to be named pope.
Two-thirds of electors must choose the same man to usher him in as pope.