Pope Successor Could Have Ties To Obama

Photo Credit: Jim, the Photographer

Vatican Uses ‘Electronic Arsenal’ To Protect Sistine Chapel

For centuries the Roman Catholic Church counted on the walls of the Sistine Chapel to keep the process of electing a new pope secret. But the Vatican must now turn to an electronic arsenal in the face of tweeting cardinals and a year of crushing leaks.

Security is foremost as the red-hatted princes of the Church gather in Rome to elect the successor to Pope Benedict, the first pontiff in centuries to resign after a reign plagued by the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal, when his butler photocopied and leaked secret documents alleging corruption in the Holy See.

The word “conclave” means “with key” in Italian, and comes from a Latin term referring to a room that can be locked. But closed doors are no longer enough in the 21st century.

Workmen are preparing the Sistine Chapel, where the secret vote is expected to take place next week, by laying down a false floor over its ornate tiles and installing electronic jammers to block any signals escaping from within the 15th-century chapel, site of Michelangelo’s vast fresco “The Last Judgment.”

Prior to the vote, Vatican officials will sweep the chapel and the guesthouse that houses the cardinals with anti-bugging scanners to detect any hidden microphones.

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Conclave Will Open To Uncertainty, No Clear Front-Runner

Cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday to elect the next pope amid more upheaval and uncertainty than the Catholic Church has seen in decades: There’s no front-runner, no indication how long voting will last and no sense that a single man has what it takes to fix the many problems.

On the eve of the vote, cardinals offered wildly different assessments of what they’re looking for in the next pontiff and how close they are to a decision. It was evidence that Benedict XVI’s surprise resignation has continued to destabilize the church leadership and that his final appeal for unity may go unheeded, at least in the early rounds of voting.

Cardinals held their final closed-door debate Monday over whether the church needs more of a manager to clean up the Vatican’s bureaucratic mess or a pastor to inspire the 1.2 billion faithful in times of crisis. The fact that not everyone got a chance to speak was a clear sign that there’s still unfinished business on the eve of the conclave.

“This time around, there are many different candidates, so it’s normal that it’s going to take longer than the last time,” Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Chile told The Associated Press.

“There are no groups, no compromises, no alliances, just each one with his conscience voting for the person he thinks is best, which is why I don’t think it will be over quickly.” None of that has prevented a storm of chatter over who’s ahead.

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Next Pope Could Have Direct Line To White House

The next Pope may not only have a direct line to the man upstairs — he could also have a direct line to the White House.

With hours to go before Tuesday’s start of the Conclave that will elect a successor for Pope Benedict XVI, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley has been attracting buzz both in the U.S. and in Vatican publications as a rising star and possible contender for the job, reports The Washington Post.

In the event that O’Malley is chosen in the white plume of smoke that emerges from the Sistine Chapel, he would not only be the first American to lead the Church’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, he would also have an unlikely tie to President Barack Obama — O’Malley’s communications director, Terry Donilon, is the brother of U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.

“One Donilon brother working for the most powerful man on the planet and the other one could work for the most powerful religious leader on the planet?” Terry Donilon told the Post in a café by the Vatican. “Yeah, that’s kind of an interesting storyline.”

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