Part V:
White Smoke, Black Fire!
The Shedding

Fifteenth Chapter

      Episode Six

             The traditional Votive Mass Pro Eligendo Papa, which preceded every Conclave, had been noticeably missing for this one. There were several reasons for this exclusion. One aim might have been the emergency status the Vatican had been thrown into; another impetus could have been the fact that the Funeral Mass, though expedited, had been completed late in the morning and, thus, another Mass was not required. But the real cause of why it was eliminated was because of the inordinate power given to the Cardinal Camerlengo and his three Cardinal Assistants who were all very malleable to Macelli's abominable agendas. This unbridled authority had been empowered by Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution Romano Pontifici Eligendo, and perpetuated by John Paul II's Universi Dominici Gregis, and, sadly, not corrected by Clement XV in his Apostolic Constitution Quodcumque Solveris.

      Dateline: Vatican City - Sistine Chapel - November 6, 4:00 p.m.

             Promptly on the hour, with 33 Cardinal Electors assembled in the Sistine beneath the never-ending scenes of Michelangelo's inspired imagination, the Dean of the College commenced the Conclave. Biblical figures - Old and New, holy and unholy - stood silent sentinel in this room of utmost secrecy. Each elector was dressed in black cassock with scarlet piping, skull cap and matching waist sash. Pectoral crosses sparkled beneath the baldachinum of each participant as they faced each other; 16 lined up along one wall, 16 on the other with a specially adapted baldacchino for Cardinal Guido Marcini to maneuver into once the voting began.
             Beneath the great fresco of the 16th century master's Last Judgment, which covered the entire front wall, the altar had been moved back against the wall, reminiscent of the nearly 500 year tradition of the Sistine. On the high altar was placed the gold repository, covered with a gold plate. Here the ballots would be placed with the Cardinal Scrutineers watching closely. Each Cardinal would bring his twice-folded ballot forward to the altar where he would vow, 'I call as my witness Christ the Lord Who will be my Judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected.' The procedure following this brief oath would be for the Cardinal Elector to place it on the gold plate, then would lift it to allow the ballot to slide into the gold receptacle, covering the container with the plate once again. Then the Cardinal Elector would descend the steps where he would bow profoundly toward the altar, then proceed back to his place, seated beneath his own baldacchino. This tradition-steeped process would be repeated by all in the Assembly as many times as necessary until two-thirds of a majority had been reached.
             In front of the altar at the base of the three-tiered steps, was a long mahogany table. Behind it were five chairs. On the table was a Bible, various stacks of papers, pens, water glasses and pitchers of water, in addition to several stacks of blank ballots. The two Masters of Ceremonies would pass out three to each of the Cardinal Electors prior to each vote. Each ballot was a regulation blank 5" x 5" paper with the words 'Eligio in Summum Pontificem' printed on the upper half. To the far left of the table was a small cast-iron cauldron in which the casted ballot slips for each balloting would be placed after being scrutinized, counted and a needle of thread pierced through the "o" in the word 'Eligio' of each ballot.
             In the center of the table, on a white cushion, was a red biretta that had been turned upside down. In it were the names of each Cardinal not previously assigned for a permanent duty of the Conclave. From this would be drawn the various assignments for the Scrutineers, Infirmarii, and Revisers that would hold through the first three full days of the Conclave. Were further balloting necessary, alternating names would be chosen from the biretta, and changed again every three days.
             On the other end of the Sistine Chapel near the entrance, behind the cloister grill wall and below the elevated platform where Cardinal Marcini was presently stationed inconspicuously, stood the two selected as the necessary medical attendants, Dr. Giuseppe Ghislieri and Dr. Gerardi Kinsajira, a Zambian physician who had served at the Ospedale Santo Spirito for the past nine years. Once the Conclave began, they would be just outside the door for possible emergencies that could arise. Standing with them were two Religious priests attached to the Papal Sacristy and Monsignor Bracio Lumendi, a tall thin, middle-aged priest from Bologna, who was the ecclesiastic appointed to give the meditation before the Official Opening of the Conclave. All three priests, collectively versed in many languages, would also serve as confessors when needed.
             All those non-Cardinal Electors, save for the Secretary of the Conclave, would be asked to leave the Sistine Chapel after Msgr. Lumendi had delivered his reflection for the College to contemplate in calling upon the Holy Ghost for inspiration. Those exiting would be on standby outside the door. Nearby in the Apostolic Palace, standing at the ready, were security-cleared personnel for housekeeping, cooking and serving.
             Marcini had turned his Penultimate over to Captain Schuster who stood guard with several of his platoon now gathered in the hall outside the Chapel. Guido could vow there were no technical instruments of any kind for recording, reproducing or transmitting any sound, video or text. All stipulations and regulations were being followed to the letter of the law.
             The time having arrived, Cardinal Mendoza left his baldacchino station, where above hung his Coat of Arms for the See of Madrid. He glided to the front behind the table, bowing at the center of the altar and turned to the Assembly to begin the proceedings. The Opening Prayer had been recited in Latin and now Cardinal Mendoza beckoned Msgr. Lumendi forward to present his brief meditation to the Cardinal Electors. Following that there would be five minutes of silence before the Dean of the College would lead the 33 Princes of the Church in the profession of the Sacred Conclave Oath.

      Dateline: Vatican City - Portone di Bronzo - November 6, 4:05 p.m.

             Father Niki Andriopoulos, Pat Gallagher and Corrine Morelli, with official security clearance badges provided by Captain Royce Schuster, had been able to pass through the Bronze Doors and return to the Papal Quarters where Sister Bridie had fully recovered from her semi-concussion. It was time to vacate the premises, primarily because it was a strict stipulation that no one could be residing in the Papal Apartments once the Conclave began. The four had retreated back down the Scalia Pia toward the main corridor when they heard a commotion. A minor argument was ensuing.
             "Monsieur," one of the guards was asserting in a very loud voice, "you do not have authorization to go further. Back outside, sil vous plait."
             "As I said, I understand, kind sir, your consternation," the magenta and purple clad African repeated. "However, I was assured this pass was valid."
             Niki recognized Ogidi beneath the colorful garb, and raced ahead of the others.
             "Sergeant, I can vouch for this man," Niki exclaimed, breathing somewhat heavily from descending two stairs at a time, as he handed the guard his special badge.
             "N'est ce pas?" the one guard asked, showing it to the other guard.
             "Oui. Certainment," the second guard assumed, looking toward Pat and Corrie just arriving with Sister Bridget McCullough. "Et vous?"
             "Americans, Corporal," Sister Bridie affirmed. "They be fine as well, they be."
             "Pardon mois, on ne sait jamais," the second guard responded, almost apologetically.
             "Bien. Continuer avec soin," the first Swiss sentinel nodded to Niki and Ogidi, handing the Greek priest his pass back. "S'absenter de le Sistine."
             "Huh?," Pat heard Sistine but didn't understand the full French.
             "Stay away from the Sistine. The Conclave," Ogidi confirmed, then gratefully acknowledged the two Swiss Guards. "Oui, merci beaucoup, mes amis."
             The second guard was still not totally convinced. This African looked familiar. Where had the Swiss soldier seen him before? "Pourquois vous objet?"
             Niki took charge. "We are to meet Monsignor Navarro in his office. That is our purpose."
             "Permission allouer. You are free to go," finalized the first guard, as they both clicked their heels and returned to their stations, though the second guard was still not totally convinced. He would not remember why until later this afternoon that this man in the flowing magenta and purple robes had been the same Coptic cleric as well as the Auxiliary Bishop Bantu Nukumba of Zaire who had come and gone so freely. Truly, Ogidi was a master of disguises.

      Dateline: Vatican City - St. Peter's Square - November 6, 4:10 p.m.

             Another who was disguised, but was not who some thought, was the hooded faux-Franciscan. Sporting his steel-toed Stingray western boots beneath the poor garment of rough wool, he was being jostled by spectators crowding into St. Peter's Square. Blix was piqued. He hated crowds, hated this costume he had to utilize to get this far. What a disgrace for one as powerful as he. After a seemingly interminable time of bumping his way out of the main fray of the Square toward the columns beneath the Colonnade near the Bronze Doors where Pat and Corrie had entered, he spotted a pay phone on the wall. Frenetically he picked it up. Yes, there was a dial tone, even if it was a weird sounding pitch with short beeps. He dialed the only number he had left, the phone in the abandoned limo. Perhaps he could forward a message through that line to somehow reach Ans or Soto, wherever they were.
             Impatiently he prepared to wait out the series of steps before he could finally leave a message. One could imagine his surprise, even rue Blix's good fortune, when Ans finally answered.
             "Who's this?" Blix demanded, suspicious that the Polizia had most probably impounded the limo.
             "Ans Ichariak. Is this you, sir?"
             "Damn right it's me, man."
             "We have the limo, but it has been dam--"
             "Yeah, and y'all don't have the broad either do ya?
             "Well, no, sir, but we can explain."
             "Never mind. Ah got her in mah sites, sort of. How'd ya ever get the limo back? Ah hell, never mind that, where the hell y'all at?"
             "My brother and I are stuck in traffic on the boulevard just before the bridge. We can see the Basilica from here."
             "Well, for now don't even try. It's a mess heah, too. The place is swimmin with stinkin' people. Damn them. Listen, for now, get back to the airport. Alert the pilot to have the jet fueled. We're headin' back to Iraq tonight. Oh, and ah'll need another helo. Have it meet me at the Heliport on the far western corner inside the walls of this god-forsaken place. Ah don't know how Ah'll get back there, but Ah will. Six sharp. Got it?"
             "Yes, sir, we shall try."
             "No, Ans, you shall not try, y'all shall do it. Ya heah?"
             "Yes, sir."
             "Good. See ya at six. Don't be late or else."
             Nearby bystanders were shocked at the harsh tones from a Franciscan no less. Blix tried to assuage fears with a quick quip, "Sandals ain't ready yet!" Digging in his heels, he slithered into the crowd, closer to the Bronze Doors.

      Dateline: Vatican City - Sistine Chapel - November 6, 4:15 p.m.

             All non-voting personnel save for the Masters of Ceremonies had been escorted out of the Sistine Chapel. The five minutes of silence had elapsed. Cardinal Julies Mendoza stood to administer the solemn oath. Because of the acoustics in this room no microphone was necessary.
             "Before drawing the names of the Cardinal Scrutineers, Infirmarii, and Revisers, I would ask the Cardinal Camerlengo to come forward, His Lordship from Italy, Antonio Cardinal Macelli." The black-hearted rotund one squeezed out from beneath his baldacchino and lumbered to the front.
             "I now ask the Cardinal Assistants, predetermined at the General Congregation last night, to come forward. First, the Sub-Dean of the College, His Lordship from Italy, Gregorio Cardinal Bondi," Cardinal Mendoza announced. "He will also serve as Secretary of this Electoral Assembly." The latter ambled forward, a slight limp to his gait, the result of a gimpy knee he had endured since his elevation by Cardinal Giuseppe Siri on August 15, 1985 in Genoa.
             "Next, continued the Spanish Cardinal, "I call forth the second assistant, the Advocate for the Ordo Rituum Conclavis, His Lordship from Canada, Thomas Cardinal Wetherby. And," Julies concluded, "would His Lordship from Croatia, Jon Anton Cardinal Kracic, please join the Electors' dais please as the third Cardinal Assistant."
             "We shall now draw from the scarlet biretta the first three names. They shall serve as the three Cardinal Scrutineers for the first three full days. He reached in and pulled out the first slip. "His Lordship from England, His Eminence William Quentin Richards. Please, Lord Richards, take your place here," Julies motioned to the chair to the far left while at the same time reaching back to select the next name. "His Lordship from France, Philippe Cardinal Maurin. Please, Lord Maurin, take your place next to Lord Richards." Selecting the third name, Julies announced, "the third Scrutineer shall be His Lordship from Brazil, Joaquim Sinke Plinio Cardinal Arcoverde."
             "We shall now draw the first set of Infirmarii," Mendoza continued, reaching into the biretta. "These three shall remain in their place until the balloting begins. If there are any who they need to minister to, then they will be called upon. The first name drawn is His Lordship from Zimbabwe, Mbuta Celestin Kabwela."
             While the Dean of the College announced the names of the other two Infirmarii chosen by random from the scarlet biretta, Lieutenant Alexis Geraud and two other guards approached the hallway leading to the Camerlengo's office in the Apostolic Palace. Luciani Serrano would soon be placed under house arrest and called to join Jordan Collier and Sergeant Kutch, as well as other turncoat guards who had been rounded up and imprisoned. The Legion was coming to the end of their rope, a heinous hemp that was unraveling fast.
             Back in the Sistine, Mendoza was continuing the process. "We shall now choose the three Revisers The first shall be His Lordship from the Ivory Coast, Peter Folenga Cardinal Marzure. Lord Marzure, please take your place on the right. The second name is His Lordship from Puerto Rico, Frederico Eijo Cardinal Lopez, and the final name for the first three-day segment, is His Lordship from Hungary, Bela Cardinal Luzlo. We now have our full complement of Scrutineers, Infirmarii and Revisers. As previously prescribed, I remind the Infirmarians Cardinals Kabwela, d'Estambleau, and Strovinksy that they need not come forward, but remain in place to be called upon when needed."
             Macelli had taken his place next to the Dean's chair. To the left of Camerlengo were the Cardinal Assistants Bondi, Wetherby and Kracic. Adjacent at a 90 degree angle to the table three chairs were set for the Scrutineers Richards, Maurin and Arcoverde. To the left side, mirroring the Scrutineers' chairs, were three more chairs; in front of which stood the chosen Revisers Cardinals Marzure, Lopez, and Luzlo.
             Mendoza tapped the table with his gavel and all were seated, as Mendoza came forward front and center before the table. "As you know, venerable brothers, it is the custom to now read aloud the formula of the Sacred Oath of the Conclave. This is necessary before we can address any other business, and I know there are a few in here who want to address that. However, first we must tend to the tradition passed down and decreed in the most recent Apostolic Constitution Quodcumque Solveris. I trust you all have the scripts in front of you. Let us begin."
             Banging the gavel twice, all in the Assembly stood as Bishop Jose Malvonte from Portugal and Bishop Jahartin Mhunundi from Indonesia, serving as Masters of Ceremony, presented themselves before the Dean of the College. Bishop Mhunundi held the scroll which contained the oath, Bishop Malvonte the Latin Vulgate Bible.
             Cardinal Mendoza led the recitation as each Cardinal Elector held his right hand up and in unison they pronounced,

        "We, the Cardinal electors present in this election of the Supreme Pontiff promise, pledge and swear, as individuals and as a group, to observe faithfully and scrupulously the prescriptions contained in the Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff Clement XV, Quodcumque Solveris. We likewise promise, pledge and swear that whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church and will not fail to affirm and defend strenuously the spiritual and temporal rights and the liberty of the Holy See. In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favor to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff."
             With this accomplished, the next step was for each Cardinal Elector by order of their precedence, to place their hand on the holy book and personally conclude the oath. Mendoza was first, as he placed his hand on the deep burgundy gold-leafed bible Malvonte was holding. From his heart he vowed, "And I, Julies Cardinal Mendoza, do so promise, pledge and swear. So help me, God, and these Holy Gospels which I touch with my hand."
             The two Master of Ceremonies then moved to Cardinal Bondi, then Cardinal Wetherby, and from there to Macelli. Whatever the latter would vow meant nothing, but he continued the facade despite the knowing glances of so many of his peers. Included in this ritual were the twelve Cardinals who had passed the age of 80. Silently Vendhem and Macelli stewed as did their cohorts Krementz, Carteaga, Radkalionis, Hong-Ju, Visserant and others. They could do nothing until this process was completed. Once the Extra omnes had been announced, and all but the Cardinal Electors removed from the Sistine chamber, then the sparks would fly. Oh, would they!
          "Blessed is he, that readeth and heareth the words of this prophecy; and keepeth those things which are written in it; for the time is at hand."
          Apocalypse 1: 3

      Next: Part VI - The Unveiling SIXTEENTH CHAPTER - Episode One

"White Smoke, Black Fire!" is an original work, registered with the Writers' Guild and all rights are the exclusive rights of The DAILY CATHOLIC who owns the copyright. Because of the nature of the internet and the importance of sharing, we hereby give the reader permission to collect and disseminate by e-mail each episode as it is presented in each issue of The DAILY CATHOLIC, provided that one includes this 1986, 2001 copyright statement and source - www.DailyCatholic.org - and take nothing out of context, nor reproduce it for profit. This work, seventeen years in the making, is a work of fiction that replicates the reality of today in many ways. However names, characters, places and incidents are used fictionally and any resemblance to actual persons and events, except those recorded in history, are purely coincidental.


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