Vatican City: A new plume of black smoke over the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday indicated that Catholic cardinals had failed, after three rounds of voting, to elect a new leader for their 1.2 billion-strong Church.

The 115 cardinals had gone into seclusion on Tuesday to find a successor to Benedict XVI, who brought a troubled eight-year papacy to an abrupt end by resigning last month aged 85.
    
The black smoke -- a signal given not after each failed vote but after every two such rounds -- indicated that no one had gained the two-thirds majority needed to become the 266th pope. A successful result would be signalled immediately by white smoke and followed soon afterward with the famous announcement in Latin, "Habemus Papam" (We Have a Pope).
    
The failed balloting deepened the suspense as no clear frontrunner has emerged, although conjecture has coalesced around three favourites: Italy's Angelo Scola, Brazil's Odilo Scherer and Canada's Marc Ouellet, all conservatives like Benedict.
    
"So far there is no majority, but some candidates with little support will fall by the wayside soon," an anonymous cardinal who is too old to vote in this conclave but took part in preliminary meetings told the Italian daily La Stampa.
    
Some analysts suggest that Benedict's dramatic act – the first papal resignation in over 700 years -- could push the cardinals to take an equally unusual decision and that an outsider could emerge as a compromise candidate.
    
Hopes are high in the Philippines for the popular archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, and on the African continent for South Africa's Wilfrid Napier, the archbishop of Durban, but in practice their chances are slim. Two-thirds of the cardinals are from Europe and North America, and the view among many experts is that only someone with experience of its inner workings can reform the scandal-tainted Vatican bureaucracy, the Roman Curia.

FIVE INDIANS AMONG CARDINAL ELECTORS

Five Indian Roman Catholic Cardinals are part of the secret conclave to elect the Church's 266th pontiff, forming the biggest bloc of electors from a country in Asia. Out of 115 Cardinal electors, ten are from Asia, including five from India.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, 53, was born in Mukkoor, Kerala in 1959 and is the youngest cardinal taking part in the conclave. He is the Major Archbishop of Trivandrum. He was ordained a priest in 1986. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI at the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican on November 24, 2012. He was one of the last cardinals appointed by Benedict. He is the first cardinal of the Syro-Malankar rite.

Cardinal George Alencherry, 67, is the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamalhy for Syro-Malabars, was born was born in Thuruthy, Kerala in 1945. He holds a Bachelor's degree in economics from St Berchman's College and a Master's degree from the Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy. He was ordained a priest on November 19, 1972, according to information on Vatican's official website. On May 26, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI granted him the requested ecclesial communion after his canonical election on May 24, 2011.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, 68, is Archbishop of Bombay, was born in Mumbai on Christmas eve in 1944. He was ordained a priest on December 20, 1970, and holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome and a diploma in jurisprudence from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Benedict XVI in the consistory of November 24, 2007.
    
Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, 73, the Archbishop of Ranchi was born in Chainpur in 1939. He was ordained a priest on May 3, 1969. Cardinal Toppo studied at the Regional Major Seminary of St Albert's College in Ranchi. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from St Xavier's College, Ranchi, and a master of arts degree in history from Ranchi University. Created and proclaimed Cardinal by the Pope John Paul II on October 21, 2003.

Cardinal Ivan Dias, 76, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples was born in Mumbai in 1936. Dias was ordained a priest in 1958 and holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He entered the Vatican's diplomatic service in 1964 and was posted to the Nordic countries, Indonesia, Madagascar, La Reunion, the Comorros, Mauritius and the Secretariat of State. Created and proclaimed Cardinal by the Pope John Paul II on February 21, 2001.

(Agencies)

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