Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”
Many people across the world are wondering when we should be watching the chimney above the Sistine Chapel to see the smoke that will tell us whether a new pope has been elected.
Here is a quick guide to when to watch and what to expect . . .
The Color of the Smoke
After casting ballots, the cardinals burn them, and this is what produces the smoke. They also burn other things--straw or chemicals--to change the color of the smoke, though precisely what they're burning this time is a bit of a mystery.
As most people know, it is supposed to be black if there is no new pope but it is supposed to be white if there is.
In practice, there have been troubles with the color of the smoke being unclear in the past.
Sometimes it starts off one color and then seems to change color. This can happen when the things the cardinals are burning don't ignite at the same time.
Other times, the smoke seems too grey to say that it's white or black.
To help clear up matters, they're suppose to also start ringing the bells at St. Peter's when a new pope is elected, but there has been confusion in the past with the bells, since they are ordinarily rung at several times of day.
Hopefully, there won't be such confusion this time, but here's when to watch . . .
Regularly Scheduled Times
On Tuesday the cardinals are scheduled to have only one round of voting, which is expected to end around 7:00 p.m., Rome time.
It might be somewhat earlier or later when the smoke appears, and it will almost certainly be black, since the first ballot almost never results in a papal election.
For the next few days, the cardinals are scheduled to have four votes--two in the morning and two in the afternoon.
They will burn the ballots after each pair of ballots.
This means that the cardinals will be burning the ballots after each odd numbered ballot (that is, after ballot #1 on day 1, after ballots #3 and #5 on day 2, and ballots #7 and #9 on day 3).
The first time they burn them should be around 12:00 p.m. (i.e., noon), Rome time.
The second time will be around 7:00 p.m., Rome time.
As before, the exact time may be slightly earlier or later.
The longer the conclave goes on, the higher the likelihood that the smoke will be white.
If the cardinals elect a cardinal after an even numbered ballot (e.g., ballot #2 or #4 on day 2 or ballot #6 or #8 on day 3) then they will burn the ballots immediately.
As a result, the smoke at such an unscheduled burning will be white--announcing the election that has just happened.
Each round of balloting takes about an hour, so if they elect a pope on an even numbered ballot, the smoke would appear around an hour earlier than expected--e.g., around 11:00 a.m. or 6 p.m., Rome time.
As before, the exact time might be earlier or later.
The Rome Schedule
Here is a list of when to watch for the smoke if you are in Rome (all times local):
- Morning even numbered ballot: 11:00 a.m. (uncheduled; indicates papal election)
- Morning odd numbered ballot: 12:00 p.m. (scheduled; may be black or white smoke)
- Evening even numbered ballot: 6:00 p.m. (uncheduled; indicates papal election)
- Evening odd numbered ballot: 7:00 p.m. (scheduled; may be black or white smoke)
Your Time Zone
Rome has not yet gone on the Italian equivalent of Daylight Savings Time, so they are presently 5 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time and 8 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific Time.
Here is a list of the approximate times to watch for the smoke to appear in the different U.S. time zones (times in parentheses indicate unscheduled burnings):
- Eastern Time: (6:00 a.m.) -- 7:00 a.m. -- (1:00 p.m.) -- 2:00 p.m.
- Central Time: (5:00 a.m.) -- 6:00 a.m. -- (12:00 p.m.) -- 1:00 p.m.
- Mountain Time: (4:00 a.m.) -- 5:00 a.m. -- (11:00 a.m.) -- 12:00 p.m.
- Pacific Time: (3:00 a.m.) -- 4:00 a.m. -- (10:00 a.m.) -- 11:00 a.m.
If you live in another time zone, here is a link that you can use to determine how far ahead or behind Rome is from where you are.
Here are some additional resources that may help you while we wait:
- Conclave App (Apple and Android; includes a live video feed of the chimney)
- Adopt a Cardinal (pray for the cardinals)
- Pope Alarm (get notified by text or email when there is a new pope)
- List of Cardinal's Names in Latin (for when they make the announcement; this could shave a few seconds off your knowledge of who the new pope is)
I'd also like to mention a few of my own resources:
- How long will the conclave last?
- How do the cardinals actually choose who to vote for during the conclave?
The New Pope's Name
By the way, last year I published a study of what the next pope's name would likely be.
I'd investigated the history of pope names and found patterns in history that the popes themselves probably aren't fully aware of.
There's some fascinating stuff to be discovered!
I even listed the names that the next pope would most likely choose (will he be a Benedict? a John Paul? a Pius? a John? or something else entirely?)--as well as the names that the new pope would definitely not choose.
I put it together into a report that you can read on your Kindle, Nook, or Apple device (iPhone, iPad, iPod).
To learn more, click here to go to www.PopeNamesBook.com.
If you like the information I've presented here, you should join my Secret Information Club.
If you're not familiar with it, the Secret Information Club is a free service that I operate by email.
I send out information on a variety of fascinating topics connected with the Catholic faith.
In fact, the very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is information about what Pope Benedict says about the book of Revelation.
He has a lot of interesting things to say!
If you’d like to find out what they are, just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com or use this handy sign-up form:
Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any difficulty.
In the meantime, what do you think?