TODAY   |  March 09, 2013

Chimney that will announce new pope readied

All eyes will be on the roof of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, which has been outfitted with the chimney that will smoke once a new pope is nominated. The 115 cardinals who will take part in the conclave have one weekend left before voting begins. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the cardinals now just days away from beginning that process where they'll choose a new leader for the catholic church . we have some more from the vatican . good morning.

>> reporter: good morning. the 115 cardinals who will select the next pope are gathering down below me. they are talking. they have just this weekend to talk to each other before the voting begins. some believe that the further they decided to start the conclave on tuesday suggest they are knowser to kn eer -- are closer to knowing who they want as the next pope. as eyes will be fixed on this small roof. this morning, workers on top of the sistine chapel installing the most famous chimney in the world. when the next pope is chosen, white smoke will appear from it. the cardinals who will elect him appeared at the vatican this morning. a big job ahead of them. the faithful wondering if they have already narrowed down their choices.

>> the fact that the cardinals have decided to go to the conclave early means that i think they're getting kind of a consensus about who they might want.

>> reporter: but a consensus may not be easy.

>> they want jesus christ with an mba. you know, a man -- business management degree. you know, good luck trying to find someone who is holy, intelligent, and a communicator and has management experience.

>> reporter: many u.s. catholics in rome are hoping for an american pope.

>> we're optimistic that colonel doland -- cardinal doland will be our next pope. and we will see what happens.

>> reporter: during the conclave, the cardinals will live in basic accomodations inside the vatican . in recent history, conclaves have lasted no longer than five days. famously in 1268 , a papal election took three years. while some think this could be a quick conclave, others believe the scandals of the past few years may cause the cardinals to take their time.

>> it's crucial having all the information about what happened in the vatican in the last years so that everybody is free and can choose to vote for the right person.

>> reporter: for thousands of years in this city, romans have gathered to debate questions of states. now the leaders of the catholic church are preparing to answer the most important questions any cardinal can face -- who should be the next pope. and one italian newspaper is suggesting that boston's cardinal sean o'malley may be a strong candidate. but the general view is still that there are no front-runners.