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White smoke rose above the Sistine Chapel Wednesday, signaling to Rome and the world that the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church have chosen a new pope.
Cheers and applause erupted from the soaked crowd that had gathered in St Peter's Square to await the decision of the 115 cardinal-electors.
The smoke came on the second day of behind-closed-doors voting and marked the beginning to a new era for a church combatting scandal and internal strife.
The name of the new leader of the church's 1.2 billion worshippers was expected to be unveiled imminently on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica overlooking St. Peter's Square.
His appearance will be heralded by a Latin announcement begins with the phrase "Habemus Papam!" meaning, "We have a pope!"
The papal election follows the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 28.
Now known as the Pope Emeritus, he is now in a temporary lakeside residence at Castel Gandolfo while his permanent living quarters inside Vatican City are refurbished.
The behind-the-scenes ballot process that has taken place in the Sistine Chapel should still remain a secret. Both the cardinals and staff working alongside them swore an oath of secrecy as the conclave got underway, with the threat of ex-communication for anyone breaking the church's ancient code.
Earlier, cardinals took a lunch break after failing to reach a decision after their morning deliberations.
"We feel the world watching at this exciting time for the church," said Father Peter Verity, English priest and spiritual director of Rome's Beda College, in his homily at Mass at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Wall early Wednesday.
Rome (CNN) -- Black smoke poured from the chimney fixed to the roof of the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday morning, indicating that the cardinals' first two votes of the day were inconclusive.
The 115 voting cardinals are taking part in the second day of the secretive conclave to elect a new pope.
Read how the day will unfold
They will have two more opportunities to vote later Wednesday.
A two-thirds majority is required to confirm a new pontiff to step into the shoes left empty by the historic resignation of Benedict XVI at the end of last month.