As it happened: First day of papal conclave

Key points

  • Cardinals in Rome have begun the conclave which will decide who will be the next leader of the world's 1.2bn Roman Catholics
  • The 115 electors have taken an oath of secrecy inside the Sistine Chapel
  • The first smoke from the chapel, signifying a ballot has been held, came out black - meaning no decision has been reached
  • There will be four votes per day until the new Pope is chosen
  • The election was prompted by the surprise abdication of Benedict XVI
  • All times GMT

Live text

Reporting:

  • Jastinder Khera 
  • Lucy Wilkins 

Last updated 13 March 2013

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Welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the conclave of cardinals gathering to elect a new pope. The cardinal electors are soon due to proceed into the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican to begin the process of choosing a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.

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The cardinals will be repeating a centuries-old process to choose the new pontiff, much of it shrouded it in secrecy - watch this interactive BBC News guide to the conclave to learn more about the process, the likely contenders for the post and where the electors hail from.

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The procession of cardinals, singing and praying, from the Vatican's Pauline Chapel into the Sistine Chapel has now begun.

TWEET

The BBC's Mike Hirst

tweets: "Vatican press centre packed as #Conclave watchers prepare for Sistine lockdown:"

Reporters in the Vatican's press centre

TWEET

Rob Casapulla

tweets: The Procession of Cardinals singing the Litany of Saints and Veni Creator Spiritus is truly beautiful #conclave #pope

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At the beginning of the procession, a cardinal said in Latin: "The entire Church, united with us in prayer, asks for the grace of the Holy Spirit at this moment so that we elect a worthy shepherd for the entire flock of Christ."

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The "litany of saints", as mentioned below, is a list of more than 150 saints which the cardinals recited by name to help in making their choice.

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The cardinals are assembled beneath the frescoes by Michelangelo depicting scenes of the Creation and The Last Judgment.

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Catholic faithful from around the world have been braving the rain in St Peter's Square, such as this group from the US:

Faithfuls from USA wave a flag as they arrive at St Peter"s square on the first day of the conclave