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Firefighters have fitted a chimney on top of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican ahead of the conclave which will elect a new pope, the BBC reports. The election of a new pope will be marked by white smoke appearing from the chimney. Roman Catholic cardinals will begin electing a new pope on 12 March. Pope Benedict XVI stepped down last month after nearly eight years in office, becoming the first pontiff to resign in 600 years. The 85-year-old blamed his failing health for his inability to carry on. The vote will be preceded by Mass on Tuesday morning, with the first ballot due in the afternoon, the Vatican press office has said. The first smoke will drift out of the chapel’s rust-coloured chimney early that evening, after the first vote is taken. It is likely to be black – meaning no Pope – as no frontrunner has emerged in the five days of general discussions so far among the 115 cardinals. Although no clear favorites have emerged to take the helm of the troubled 1.2-billion-member Church, the conclave is expected to be wrapped up within just a few days, the Voice Of America reported. No conclave has lasted than more than five days in the past century, with many finishing within two or three days. Pope Benedict was elected within barely 24 hours in 2005 after just four rounds of voting. Workmen on Saturday were also putting the finishing touches to specially built rows of tables where the cardinals will sit facing each under the gaze of Jesus in Michelangelo’s massive Last Judgment panel on the wall behind the altar.Possible pontiffsNearly 150 red-hatted cardinals held a sixth day of preliminary meetings, known as “general congregations,’’ on Saturday to discuss the many challenges besieging their Church and to sketch the ideal profile of the next pope.Some 115 of their number – all those aged under 80 – will enter the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday to start the formal voting process. One ballot will be held on the first day, with four votes a day thereafter until one of their number receives a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes. The names of several possible front runners have been mentioned by church officials ever since Benedict’s resignation.Amongst the most mentioned are Italy’s Angelo Scola, Brazil’s Odilo Pedro Scherer and Canada’s Marc Ouellet. U.S. cardinals such as Timothy Dolan or Sean O’Malley have also been cited as “papabile.’’ With the vast majority of Catholics now living outside Europe, there is growing pressure for a pontiff from another part of the world. Many Vatican observers believe a Latin American, Asian or African pope could bring attention to the poverty of the southern hemisphere in the same way the Polish-born John Paul put a spotlight on the East-West divide. “I think it is important to have someone who comes from a place where the Church is dynamic and lively,’’ South Africa Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier told La Stampa newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.