Smoke Schedules

In terms of Catholic news coverage, I can’t recommend enough setting up a Twitter account to follow people like Catholic News Service and Salt + Light.  Over the past few weeks, the fantastic stories, trivia, and pictures have come through that medium, and it’s been such a great way to experience all of this second-hand.

Where else are you going to find pictures like this one?

Papal cassocks gone- conclave imminent!Courtesy of @JamesMartinSJ

Papal cassocks gone- conclave imminent!
Courtesy of @JamesMartinSJ

So since I can’t cover all the stories, I direct you there.

One question that has come up is regarding the times of the smokes.  Before I experienced the conclave of 2005, when stories of papal elections were only pages in history books for me, I assumed that people literally camped out in the Square around the clock, waiting for the smoke.  When we lived it, we realized that we only needed to be in the Square just before lunch time and just before dinner time (Roman dinner time).  We knew the basic schedule and knew when to expect smoke.

This time around is no different.  The cardinals’ schedule has been made public, and from that we can guestimate when to expect smoke.

An important note — they only burn ballots twice a day, but they vote four times a day.  This is important, because the timing of the smoke could indicate the color of the smoke.  This is a small detail of which we were ignorant in 2005, and I can’t decide whether people are making more of a point to mention it this year because of what happened in 2005, or none of us were thinking clearly in 2005.  Let me explain.

The cardinals will vote in the morning (see schedule below).  If the first vote of the morning does not produce a 2/3 majority, they will immediately vote again.  After this second vote, the ballots will burned, regardless of result.  Same with the afternoon – if the first vote of the afternoon (the third vote of the day) doesn’t produce a Pope, they will proceed immediately to vote again.  If the first vote of the day (or the third vote of the day) does produce a 2/3 majority, and that cardinal accepts, there is obviously no need to continue voting and the ballots are burned immediately.

So if we see smoke a little early, either earlier in the morning or earlier in the afternoon… the smoke is white.  Unless the cardinals somehow sped through two votes and finished up early, we can say with confidence that early smoke = white smoke.  So in 2005, since Cardinal Ratzinger was elected on the third vote of the day, the ballots were burned earlier than they would have been if they had voted a 4th time that day.  So since the smoke was early, there should have been no question regarding its color.

Anyone who lived through that, whether at home or in Rome, heard everyone arguing about what color that smoke was.  (In our defense, the smoke looks much lighter on the close-up television screens than it does in real life, too.) So is all of this knowledge regarding early smoke being white smoke a result of realizing in hindsight that there was no need for confusion in 2005?  Perhaps.

Anyway, without further ado, I present the possible smoke schedule.  Obviously, smoke could really come any time before or after these times– this is only a guess, based on the cardinals schedules (see below), when the voting will begin, and how long it will probably take.

*NB: Since Rome isn’t on DST yet, they are only 5 hours different from EDT and 6 hours from CDT.


Rome Time

Eastern Time

Central Time

Tuesday 7:00pm* 2:00pm* 1:00pm*
Wednesday 10:30am OR Noon 5:30am OR 7:00am 4:30am OR 6:00am
5:30pm OR 7:00pm 12:30pm OR 2:00pm 11:30am OR 1:00pm
Thursday 10:30am OR Noon 5:30am OR 7:00am 4:30am OR 6:00am
5:30pm OR 7:00pm 12:30pm OR 2:00pm 11:30am OR 1:00pm

*They don’t have to vote Tuesday night after entering the conclave, but I’m not sure why they wouldn’t.

The Vatican has confirmed that bells will accompany the smoke, just as they did in 2005.  A word to the wise — the Angelus bells will ring in St. Peter’s Square at noon and at 6, dangerously close to smoke sighting times.  Don’t let these fool you, even if commentators on certain channels get mixed up.  If we have a Pope, the bell on the left-hand side of the facade of St. Peter’s, under the statue of St. Jude, will ring.  That bell only rings at special occasions and does not ring the Angelus. Look for this bell to ring, not just any bell.

So there’s a run-down of estimates, but as I mentioned, if the Cardinals are particularly spry and quick on their feet, the trip from their seats to the front of the chapel might not take as long and smoke might come before these times.  On the other hand, if they re-elect Benedict, it’ll take them awhile to get to Castel Gandolfo to see if he accepts, and until he accepts, no white smoke.  [:)]

After the white smoke, we’ll have to wait awhile to find out who the Pope is — he needs to collect himself, be dressed in the white cassock, receive the Cardinals, etc.  So even if you don’t see the white smoke yourself, you’ll have time to get to a television to see Pius XIII or Paul VII or Gregory XVII come to the loggia.

Below is the cardinal’s schedule for this week.  I thought it was interesting and thought I’d share.

Don’t forget to keep the Cardinals in prayer!

Daily Schedule

First Day (March 12, 2013)
ore 15.45 Transfer from the Domus Santae Marthae to the Apostolic Palace
ore 16.30 Procession from the Pauline Chapel and Entrance into the Sistine Chapel
ore 16.45 Individual Oath by each Cardinal and possible first ballot
ore 19.15 Vespers in the Sistine Chapel
ore 19.30 Transfer to the Domus Santae Marthae
ore 20 Dinner
Schedule for Subsequent Days
ore 6.30 – 7.30 Breakfast
ore 7.45 Transfer to Pauline Chapel
ore 8.15 – 9.15 Celebration of Mass in the Pauline Chapel
ore 9.30 Mid-morning Prayer from Divine Office in Sistine Chapel and Voting
ore 12.30 Transfer to the Domus Santae Marthae
ore 13 Lunch
ore 16 Transfer to Apostolic Palace
ore 16.50 Voting in the Sistine Chapel
ore 19.15 Vespers in the Sistine Chapel
ore 19.30 Transfer to the Domus Santae Marthae
ore 20 Dinner


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