VATICAN CITY – Workers scaled the roof of the Sistine Chapel (search) on Friday and attached the chimney pipe that will bellow white smoke to alert the world that a new pope has been elected, as the Vatican (search) made final preparations for next week's conclave.
Attached by a safety clip and cable, a worker inched down the tiled roof and uncapped a small top that had covered the chimney. He replaced it with a tall, thin pipe fed to him by another man in dress pants and a tie who was standing in an opening in the chapel's sloped roof.
The conclave begins Monday. Starting that afternoon, the cardinals will send up smoke signals from the burned ballot papers of the vote to indicate whether they have found a successor to Pope John Paul II (search). Black smoke means no pope has been elected; white smoke signals a new pope.
The smoke is made by the burned ballot papers from each vote, treated with special chemicals to make it black or white.
The preparations for the balloting came as the College of Cardinals (search), who are running the church in the absence of a pope, held their second-to-last meeting before the conclave.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the 138 cardinals present spent the entire meeting discussing the problems of the church in the world. Cardinals who headed Vatican congregations and councils also discussed problems in their offices, he said.
Later Friday, housekeepers, bus drivers, technicians and other people who will have access to the cardinals during the conclave take their oath of secrecy. The list includes elevator operators who will ferry the cardinals, chefs who will cook for them, doctors who will care for them if they fall ill and priests who will hear their confessions.
The penalties for violating the oath are severe: excommunication.
The Vatican also released the text of a message signed by John Paul on Feb. 22, just two days before he underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe.
In the message, written for World Mission Sunday, John Paul urged the faithful to learn from the examples of missionaries who have been killed for their faith.
"How many missionary martyrs in our day!" read the message. "The church has need of men and women willing to consecrate themselves wholly to the great cause of the Gospel."
John Paul died on April 2 at age 84.