Cardinals are holding their second day of deliberations in the Vatican conclave to elect a new pope, after reaching no decision on Tuesday.
The 115 cardinal-electors are shut off in the Sistine Chapel and a nearby residence until two-thirds agree on a leader for the world’s 1.2bn Catholics.
Black smoke signalling an inconclusive first vote drew cheers from crowds in St Peter’s Square on Tuesday evening.
There is no clear front runner to replace Pope Benedict XVI.
A panorama of multi-coloured umbrellas massed on St Peter’s Square on Wednesday morning as hardy pilgrims braved tempestuous conditionsto take up their chimney-watch vigil.
The good news: The cardinals’ second vote was expected to conclude around 09:30 GMT. The bad news: It took firm favourite Joseph Ratzinger four votes to get elected in 2005.
So smoke is expected, but not until around midday. And it is likely to be black. And Wednesday’s weather forecast is terrible.
Still, the faithful huddled in their plastic ponchos – it’s been a bumper time for street-hawkers selling plastic sheets and cheap brollies for five euros.
Eyes darted between the rust-coloured chimney stack on the Sistine Chapel and the big screens dotted around the square.
Some people carrying bedraggled national flags were backing their country’s favourites. Some were praying for peace and unity in the Church.
Others were just hoping for white smokeso the cardinals would clear out of the Sistine Chapel so they could get a glimpse of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement.
And so the vigil goes on.
The 85-year-old stepped down last month, saying hewas no longer strong enough to lead the Church,which is beset by problem sranging from a worldwide scandal over child sex abuse to allegations of corruption at the Vatican Bank.
The cardinals will vote four times daily until a single candidate garners enough support – at which point the smoke coming from the Sistine Chapel chimney will be white.
After celebrating Mass thismorning, they returned to the Sistine Chapel to resume voting.
They can vote twice in the morning. If those ballots are inconclusive, black smoke will once again rise from the chimney and the election will resume after lunch.
Voting takes place in silence, with no formal debate, until a decision is reached. If that does not happen after three days, there may be a pause for prayer and informal discussion for a maximum of one day.