Benedict XVI has decided not to attend the Mass to inaugurate his successor as Pope, the Vatican said Wednesday.
Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi would not say why the Pope Emeritus would not be at the formal Mass.
Benedict’s secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein said the former pontiff is following the election of his successor "attentively" from his residence in Castel Gandolfo, just outside Rome.
Gänswein said the former pontiff had been keeping track of events on television, beginning with yesterday's pre-conclave Mass.
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Lombardi said Gänswein will remain at the Vatican until the conclusion of the conclave. Benedict is, in the meantime, being helped by another assistant.
Four votes to elect the 266th Pope have now been taken and only black smoke has appeared from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel in St. Peter's Square, signifying that no decision on a new Pope has yet been made by at least 77 of the 115 cardinal electors.
Lombardi said excitement is growing and this is "a particularly beautiful and intense moment" in the papal election process. “The prelates are all doing well, are in good spirits, and this morning some even walked to the Pauline Chapel, where they celebrated Mass before entering the Sistine Chapel,” he added. Usually they are ferried the mile or so from their residence to the Chapel by minibus.
He said more crowds have been gathering in St. Peter's Square than he was expecting. "This is already an indication of the serene and joyful climate that characterizes these days," Lombardi said, adding that it reminded him of when people from all over Rome flocked to the square at the election of Benedict XVI eight years ago. "Then and now we feel the affection that the Romans hold for the Pope, always welcoming him warmly wherever he might come from," he said.
Lombardi also stressed that no one was expecting a result on Tuesday night — of the eight Popes elected in the last century, only Pius XII was picked on the first vote — but he said that all cardinals were well enough to make it to the Sistine Chapel helping to speed up the voting.
Lombardi also explained how the black and white smoke is generated. The black smoke is produced by a mixture of potassium perchlorate, anthracene, and sulphur, while the white smoke is made by burning a mixture of potassium chlorate, lactose, and rosin — a natural amber resin, he said.
Despite the cold and wet weather, large crowds of pilgrims and tourists were gathering in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.
The mood is upbeat despite the wet and the cold — not the kind of weather many were expecting of Rome. But this could be a time when all expectations are scuppered and a Successor is elected whom few observers had been predicting.
Indeed, the longer this conclave lasts the more likely it is that those considered to be front-runners will not be elected and the cardinals will decide on someone "below the radar." Such is the way of this election that if a candidate continues to near but not quite reach the two thirds majority needed, his votes will likely transfer to those who have been polling less, who then gathers momentum.
Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI at the equivalent of this afternoon's first vote, around 5:30 p.m., but his election was relatively quick. Many observers are expecting a Pope to be elected sometime Thursday, possibly at the seventh vote, which would be taken at noon local time. However speculation about papal elections has proven to be more wrong than right over the centuries
For many in St. Peter's Square, expectations are wide and varied. "It will take several days to choose," believes Gabriele, 23, from Modena, Italy. "I think it will be [Cardinal Sean] O’Malley from Boston. He gives the impression of a simple person and he fought against [clerical sex] abuse."
Jean Pierre, 55, from Bordeaux in France is hoping for an African Pope, and thinks the cardinal electors will fulfil that hope. "I think it will bring peace," he says. "That’s all."
Fr. Andy Moore, 40, from Houston Texas is under no illusion how great are the challenges confronting the next Pope. "There is a lot facing [him]," he says. "Evangelization, the sex abuse crisis, I just pray he has the spirit of Christ in his heart. That is what matters."
Connie, 65, also from Texas, said: "Whoever the next pope is, I feel he will be the right one. Of course an American would be awesome!"
Media almost outnumber the general public here, with nearly 6,000 accredited to cover the event. Among them is Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, an American blogger well known among Catholics for his incisive opinions. "I'm anxious but hopeful," he told Newsmax. "Anxious about there being a break with the line of continuity that the Holy Father introduced, especially into our liturgical worship."
But he added he was "hopeful that the new Pope will be fearless and vigorous in word and deed and in giving an example of the love of Christ." He also was hopeful that the new pontiff "will undertake the extremely difficult task of governing with firm charity."
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