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


  • Jastinder Khera 
  • Lucy Wilkins 

Last updated 13 March 2013


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.


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.


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


The BBC's Mike Hirst

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

Reporters in the Vatican's press centre


Rob Casapulla

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


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."


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.


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


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