The conclave to elect a new pope began today in Rome.  Guy Dinmore and Giulia Segreti from the Financial Times describe the first day:

Cardinals sequestered in the Sistine chapel held their first vote to choose the 266th pope to lead the Roman Catholic church but black smoke emerging from their burnt ballot papers on Tuesday night signalled no one had secured the two-thirds majority needed for election.

The search for a successor to Benedict XVI, who last month became the first pontiff to abdicate in nearly 600 years, will continue on Wednesday with up to four rounds of voting.

In a ceremony combining pageantry and religious solemnity adapted over the centuries, the 115 voting cardinals took their oaths of secrecy in Latin after chanting their way into Michelangelo’s frescoed chapel, windows obscured and swept for electronic devices. Its doors were then closed and locked, and the princes of the church will remain cut off from the world, spending their nights in a nearby Vatican residence, until a winner emerges.

Regarding the color of the smoke, Rev. Robert Sirico points out that,

… white smoke signifying an elected pope would have been highly unlikely on the first day. Cardinals would next analyse which candidates have emerged with a following.

[Sirico] hazarded that Italy’s Angelo Scola and Marc Ouellet of Canada might have obtained around 40 votes each. Cardinals Odilo Scherer of Brazil and Sean O’Malley of Boston might have taken “a smaller amount.”

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