On Saturday the chimney that signals the election of a new pope was installed on the top of the Sistine Chapel. Pope Benedict XVI's personal seal and fisherman's ring were also destroyed as the cardinals prepare for the start of the conclave Tuesday.
Firefighters on Saturday installed the top of the Sistine Chapel chimney that will signal to the world that a new pope has been elected, as the Vatican took measures to definitively end Benedict XVI's pontificate.
While construction workers prepared the interior of the frescoed Sistine Chapel for Tuesday's start of the conclave, officials elsewhere in the Apostolic Palace destroyed Benedict's fisherman's ring and the personal seals and stamps for official papers.
The act, coupled with Benedict's public resignation and pledge of obedience to the future pope, is designed to signal a definitive end of his papacy so there is no doubt in the church that a new pope is in charge.
The developments all point toward the momentous decision soon to confront the Catholic Church: Tuesday's start of the conclave to elect a new pope to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics and try to solve the numerous problems facing the church.
The Vatican outlined the timeline for the balloting and confirmed that the bells of St. Peter's Basilica will ring once a pope has been elected. But Vatican officials also acknowledged that there is some uncertainty about the whole endeavor, given the difficulties in discerning the color of smoke that will snake out of the Sistine chimney — black if no pope has been elected, white if a victor has emerged.