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Earlier today 115 cardinals were locked behind the heavy wooden door to start discussions for the successor to Benedict XVI following his shock resignation.
But as darkness fell, the dark smoke plumed into the sky over the Vatican in a sign that talks had ended without a decision.
Benedict's resignation has thrown the church into turmoil and exposed deep divisions among cardinals grappling with whether to pick a manager who can clean up the Vatican bureaucracy or a pastor who can inspire Catholics at a time of crisis.
The 115 red-hatted and red-caped cardinals earlier chanted and prayed for divine guidance as they prepared for a conclave to choose a pontiff who will face one of the most difficult periods in the Church's history.
Black Smoke rises from Sistine Chapel: No decision on Pope choice ~ link ~
As Joseph Ratzinger recognized in recalling the conclaves in which he participated:
"I know well how we were exposed to those images in the hours of the great decision, how they called us to task, how they insinuated into our souls a sense of the greatness of the responsibility. The word "con-clave" brings forward the thought of the keys, of the heritage of the keys left to Peter. To place these keys in the right hands: this is the immense responsibility in those days.”
The smoke started billowing out of the chimney on the Sistine Chapel at 7:41 p.m.