Parishioners, paparazzi and other media from around the world packed the church where New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan performed mass. It looked like a scene straight out of Hollywood.
Dolan is among a group of 10 to 15 cardinals who have emerged in the Italian media as frontrunners for pope. Different Italian newspapers have different favorites, but there is no one clear choice. A common Italian saying sums it up - if you go into the conclave a pope, you'll come out a cardinal. The statement emphasizes that the so-called frontrunners are often not chosen as pope.
The start date for the conclave has been set for Tuesday. Saturday, firefighters installed a chimney on the Sistine Chapel roof that will signal the election of a new pope.
The design of the chimney is very simple: a century-old cast iron stove where ballot papers are burned, with a copper pipe out the top that snakes up the Sistine's frescoed walls, out the window and onto the chapel roof.
Eyewitness News was given a rare opportunity to see where the smoke will be coming from inside the Sistine Chapel. Select members of the media were invited in to see the preparations first hand. The entry into the chapel alone is awe inspiring.
Walking in, you are immediately drawn to the 68-feet-tall ceiling. There, you see some of the greatest works of art in human history - Michelangelo's frescos painted 500 years ago. From the "Hand of God" giving life to Adam, which was completed in 1512, to "The Last Judgment" completed in 1541, which takes up the entire wall behind the altar, it's as if these were just painted.
On the ground, it's back to reality as workers deal with a strict deadline. In mere days, the 115 voting cardinals will be locked into this room.
Scaffolding and partitions are in place to restrict movement and better protect the chapel during the conclave.
The famous stoves are in plain sight, right by the entry into the chapel. One is designed to burn the ballots, the other designed to emit the smoke. A long pipe leads to the famous chimney that millions of people will be watching.
The Sistine Chapel is a remarkable place that plays such an important and ongoing role in history. It's a setting for the ages, where the cardinals receive their divine inspiration to elect a new pope and create a new chapter in world history.
The cardinals will take a vote on Tuesday, followed by several more possible votes on the following days. If they don't have a pope by Friday, they will take Saturday off for prayer and reflection and begin the whole process again Sunday.