Sistine Chapel chimney installed as conclave nears, still no frontrunner

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Firefighters place the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, where cardinals will gather to elect the new pope. (AP Photo)

Firefighters place the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, where cardinals will gather to elect the new pope. (AP Photo)

VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican is trying to put an end to speculation that divisions among cardinals could drag out the conclave to elect the new pope.

Preparations for the vote are plowing ahead Saturday, with firefighters installing the Sistine Chapel chimney that will tell the world when a decision has been reached. Elsewhere, officials took steps to definitively end Benedict XVI’s pontificate, destroying his fisherman’s ring and the personal seals and stamps he used for official papers.

There is no clear front-runner to succeed Benedict and a number of cardinals have been angling for more discussion of the church’s problems before a vote.

But, the Vatican spokesman is stressing that the decision to set Tuesday as the start of the conclave was nearly unanimous. And he notes that no conclave over the past century has dragged on for more than five days.

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