Black smoke, Roman rain fail to deter conclave crowds
By Naomi O'Leary and Catherine Hornby
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - They came in their thousands to hail a new pope, only to have any hopes they had dashed by a puff of black smoke - but that did not quell the excitement of crowds gathered in the rain at the Vatican on Wednesday.
Most of those in St. Peter's Square were well versed enough in the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church to know that white smoke to signify the naming of a new pope was unlikely to emerge from the first full voting season of the conclave on Wednesday.
"You can't expect a microwave pope," said Adrian Britton, a 34-year-old artist and missionary from Maryland. "It's a process.
"These men are trying carefully to work out who should be next to lead them. I'm kind of happy it wasn't white smoke because I just showed up," added Britton, who said friends in his parish had paid for him to come to Rome and pray for them during the conclave.
Cheers rose from the crowd as the first wisps of smoke emerged in late morning, only to turn to sighs when it became clear from subsequent billows that it was unambiguously black.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said there were more people at St. Peter's than he expected and the numbers were likely to swell again on Wednesday evening when Romans head to the square after work to see the results of the afternoon votes.
Those waiting for the smoke had strong views on who should lead a Church that has been damaged by sex scandals and allegations of corruption and in-fighting in its administration. Continued...