Update at 2:43 p.m. ET. No Pope Today: Black smoke just poured from the chimney above the Vatican. That means, as was expected, the cardinals did not choose a pope on the first vote of their conclave to name a successor to the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI.
The stage is now set for the opening act of one of the more spectacular and intriguing theatrical dramas on the planet: the election of a pope.
Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world are due to meet in Rome to begin the process of electing the next Pope.
Today is the last day of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Just two weeks ago, the German-born pope stunned the world by announcing he would be the first pope to resign in 600 years.
Among those watching the papal transition closely are survivors of clergy sexual abuse, including a handful who were selected to meet with Pope Benedict XVI five years ago as the crisis raged.
Pope Benedict XVI leaves office this week, the second pope to resign voluntarily. The first was Celestine V, a hermit who quit in 1294 after a brief and disastrous stint.
Pope Benedict XVI has given his final Sunday blessing at the Vatican before he steps down on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims have attended St Peter's Square in Rome for one of the final public appearances of Pope Benedict XVI.
The names of African cardinals are popping up as possible contenders to succeed Pope Benedict as head of the Roman Catholic Church when steps down at the end of the month.
The director of the St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois is reacting to Pope Benedict the 16th’s resignation with the same shock as others in the faith.