Smoke Signals: A Papal Play

List of Characters

Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria

Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy


The papal conclave is in progress. In the early stages of voting no conclusive vote has yet been reached. Thus, the symbolic black smoke has been ordered up the papal chimney. Meanwhile three of the favourites for the new position converse…

Francis: Why are they cheering outside?

Leonardo: I don’t know. That was the fifth time we’ve sent up the black smoke today.

Marc: Um, guys.

Francis: What Marc?

Marc: I think we may have a problem…you know the whole black powder equals black smoke, white powder equals white smoke thing?

Francis: Yes, I am aware of the mechanism…

Marc: Well, I think I might have put the white powder in by mistake.

Francis: WHAT?


Marc: Oh, don’t you go and get involved Leonardo, this is just like last week.

Leonardo: Like last week?

Marc: Yeah, last week at dinner. You told the waiter we were ready, but then you asked to be the last one to order and I’m thinking…alright this is a little weird. And lo and behold, when the waiter finally comes to you, it still takes you five minutes to order. If you call over the waiter, at least have your order ready!

Leonardo: What?

Francis: Marc, of course Leonardo ruined dinner, we all agree on that. But come on, how is this relevant?

Marc: I know, I just like to remind Leo sometimes that he makes mistakes too.

Francis: Okay, I see where you’re coming from.


Marc: I don’t see the big deal. Just go out there and say we made a mistake.

Leonardo: Oh yeah, that’s great! Go out there and say that we, who are responsible for the faith of billions, who claim papal infallibility, who only cleared Galileo of wrongdoing in 1992…we just admit we had some idiot put in the wrong powder? Brilliant!

Marc: Well…if you put it like that.

(enter Cardinal Angelo Scola of Italy)

Angelo: Buon giorno gentlemen. Now what seems to be getting Leonardo in a tizzy? Did someone ask him what he wanted for dinner?

Marc: Good one Angelo, but no, we have a bit of a situation on our hands. Turns out somehow the white powder got mixed up with the…

Leonardo: I think what Marc is trying to say is that he was given one simple task. He bungled it magnificently and now the entire world believes we’ve elected a new pope.

Angelo: Well, well, well, this is a most unfortunate situation is it not? Of course had an Italian, or even a European been in charge…

Francis: Oh, fuck off Angelo. Marc’s Canadian, I’m putting this one on your lot.

Angelo:  I’ve always said you can never trust a Canadian…

Francis: When have you ever said that?

Angelo: I have thought it…

Francis: Well, Angelo out of all of us has the best odds on Paddy Power right?

Marc: Paddy Power?

Francis: It’s this gambling website, they made odds on the election. Angelo’s odds are 3 to 1.

Marc: I guess it’s decided then.

Angelo: Woah, how about we hold our proverbial horses here and…

Leonardo: Ugh, I hate it when he does that

Angelo: Does what?

Leonardo: Use “proverbial” in a phrase that’s clearly already a proverb. Surprisingly, I was aware that you weren’t talking about real horses.

Angelo: There are times Leo, when I wish you would just keep your mouth shut. And I mean your mouth, not your proverbial mouth.

Marc: Come on guys, turn the other cheek. Now Angelo, do you or do you not want to be pope.

Angelo: I like the idea of it, it’s just it’s a lot of pressure, lot of exposure…I enjoy my gig as the Archbishop of Milan. I don’t want to go parading around cities in a Popemobile wearing Prada shoes.

Marc: You know the Prada shoes aren’t mandatory right?

Angelo: I know, but it’s the whole thing. I just want to relax and visit St. Peters at my own leisure. Anyway how about you guys? One of you must be willing…

(the four cardinals look around at each other in dead silence for a few minutes)

Francis: So that’s it? None of us?

Marc: I just love Canada, I couldn’t go that long without the bracing mist, the majestic trees and herds of wild elk roaming the plains while we eat hot stew inside, cloaked in our benevolence and…

Leonardo: ENOUGH. So it’s not going to be any of us. Well, how about him?

(Leonardo points to Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who is conversing with a crowd in the middle of the room)

Marc: Who, Peter?

Leonardo: Yeah, Peter.

Francis: On Paddy Power…

Angelo: Will you shut up about Paddy Power?

Francis: No seriously, on Paddy Power he has even better odds than you. His are 11 to 4.

Angelo: What? But he’s bla…

Francis: Don’t say it Angelo.

Angelo: Bland! I was just going to say bland! You ever talked to the guy? It’s like talking to a…a bland dish.

Francis: Sure. I know that he’s having a whale of a time down in Ghana, so he probably wouldn’t be willing either. In fact, I’m doubtful anyone in this place wants to be Pope.

Marc: Sort of ironic isn’t it?

Leonardo: Oh, is it Marc? Please, explain the irony to me.

Marc: Well, we’re all here supposedly voting for a new Pope and…oh…I see what you were doing…

Francis: Angelo, you ever consider pulling the old Pius maneuver?

Angelo: Such a trick has not been played in years.

Francis: It might be time…call Peter over.

(Angelo goes over to the crowd and extracts Cardinal Peter Turkson)

Francis: Ah Peter, how goes it?

Peter: Alright, getting a bit peckish you know?

Francis: Sure, sure. Anyway, Angelo, wasn’t there a message for Peter from the Vatican Curia?

Angelo: Yes, I think they needed someone to go out on the balcony and wave at the crowd. You know, keep them upbeat. They might even let you wear the Pope’s hat, cloak and staff, just to add a bit of flair.

Peter: I’ve never heard of such a thing…

Marc: No, it’s a thing…it’s definitely a thing.

Leonardo: I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it actually…

Angelo: I’ve also heard there is quite a sumptuous buffet to be had afterwards. How about I lead you there? I was given the message, the least I can do is take you up to the balcony.

Peter: Well, sure then. Thanks Angelo!

Angelo: Oh no problem at all.

(Angelo exits with Peter, leaving the three cardinals by themselves)

Francis: Poor bugger…

Leonardo: It had to be someone, didn’t it.

Marc: Dinner?

The Entire Conclave: Sure!

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