VATICAN CITY – The chimney is up, the tourists are out and the cardinals are on deck.
Final preparations were underway Saturday in Michelangelo’s splendid Sistine Chapel for the conclave of prelates who will elect a new pope to head the Roman Catholic Church.
Journalists were given a look inside the famed chapel where the red-hatted cardinals, the “princes” of the church, will begin their secret proceedings Tuesday to try to settle on a new leader from within their ranks.
At the back of the frescoed interior sat the pair of stoves that will be the 115 cardinals’ only form of communication with the outside world. Ballots will be burned in one stove and special coloring chemicals in the other, their fumes mixing in a combined duct to create black smoke to signal an inconclusive vote and white puffs to show a new pope has been elected.
The chimney – a simple, skinny copper pipe – was installed by firefighters Saturday morning. It runs up the wall and out one of the chapel’s windows. The tiny smokestack on the roof is visible to tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.