[JURIST] One hundred and fifteen Roman Catholic cardinal-electors [EWTN profiles] have begun to take their oaths of secrecy prescribed in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis [text] at the start of the papal conclave in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [BBC profile], dean of the College of Cardinals [backgrounder] and himself a leading papal candidate, administered the general oath:
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 John Paul II, Universi Dominici Gregis, published on 22 February 1996. 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 favour 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.
The administration of this oath is being followed by individual affirmations as each cardinal comes forward in turn and places his right hand on the Gospels. The first ballot of the conclave will take place early this evening, Rome time.
2:15 PM ET – Wire services are reporting that black smoke has been seen coming out of the Sistine Chapel chimney, indicating failure to elect a pope on the first ballot.