Black smoke emerging from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel this morning indicated that the 115 cardinal electors of the Roman Catholic Church failed to elect a pope in their second vote.
The cardinals started the conclave on Tuesday afternoon, but black smoke emerged from the chapel's chimney a few hours afterwards, signaling that no candidate had received the two-thirds majority -- 77 votes -- needed for election. With such a wide open conclave, the failure to pick the next pontiff on the first day did not come as a surprise.
"As the votes go on, a certain clarity usually arrives," Fr. John Wauck, a U.S. priest living in Rome, told ABC News. "No one said electing a pope was going to be easy."
However a key cardinal from the United States voiced optimism that a decision would be made soon. Before the conclave began, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a letter to his priests in New York that he believed a successor to the retired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI would be picked by Thursday evening.
Dolan himself is viewed as a potential candidate to become the next pope, as is fellow American Cardinal Sean O'Malley from Boston. But there has never been an American pope or any pope from outside of Europe. Other candidates viewed as potential frontrunners are cardinals Angelo Scola of Italy, Marc Ouellet of Canada, Peter Erdo of Hungary and Odilo Scherer of Brazil.
"I imagine there is a growing clarity about what the options will be in the next few days," Wauck said.
After breaking for the night, the cardinals returned to their residence at Santa Marta for a simple dinner of pasta with tomato sauce, soups, and cheeses, according to Italian news agency ANSA. The plain, basic fare -- no match for the fine food served across Rome -- may make the cardinals more eager to wrap up their deliberations.
As the cardinals kicked off the conclave Tuesday, the scene outside in St. Peter's Square was mostly calm, the crowd slow to gather as Rome was drenched in a steady rain. Despite one protest from a Ukrainian feminist organization that turned violent with Italian police, most of the crowd was peaceful, with many holding flags, singing, and praying.
Some Americans in Vatican City said they hope that the next pontiff will bring changes to the church and its 1.2 billion followers around the world.
"It's a great opportunity for the Catholic Church to actually go through some reforms," said Tom Hever of Dallas. "They have to be transparent for the younger people to believe. That is the future of the Catholic Church: the next generation, our young people."
Another American, Tania Guerrero from Brian, Tex., said she believes that women are "not as high" as men in the eyes of the church.
"I feel like I'd like to see the new pope have more different ideas," she said.
With the cardinals now entering the second day of the conclave, the identity of that new pope could be revealed later today. Yet again, the eyes of the world will be trained on the chimney at the Sistine Chapel, waiting to see if white smoke will finally emerge.