As the Catholic Church Votes For Pope, Mixed Crowds Gather

VIDEO: Josh Elliott, Cecilia Vega report on the ancient Vatican ritual.

ABC News' Cecilia Vega contributed to this report:

While one of the holiest rituals of the Catholic Church took place inside St. Peter's Basilica, there was a moment of chaos outside its walls.

Just steps away from St. Peter's, topless women protested what they call patriarchy in the church, and met their match with the Vatican police.

Authorities pounced on the protesters, shoving away members of the media as bystanders watched.

Vatican police clash with protesters in Vatican City

With thousands of pilgrims packed into this holy site, security is on high alert.

Earlier today, many of those pilgrims started the in prayer at a mass held before sending the cardinals on their way.

Related: Meet the Cardinals at the Papal Conclave

For hours people waited outside to get a seat in the basilica to catch a glimpse of the cardinals walking down the aisle. Soon, one of them will become the next pope.

Others braved Rome's pouring rain, waiting for that telltale sign of white smoke billowing from the stack atop the Sistine Chapel.

The Process of Electing a Pope

But even among the devoted, there are renewed calls for reform - everything from the church's handling of the sex abuse scandals to allowing female priests and greater transparency.

"The sex abuse scandal has been going on forever," Tom Hever of Dallas told ABC News. "I think the next pope will deal with it because the last one, it was very hard for him."

Tania Guerrero of Brian, Texas was asked by ABC News' Cecilia Vega what she thought of women, their role in the Catholic Church and where they stand.

"Not as high," she responded.

For many in Rome and around the world, there is hope that whoever emerges as the next leader of the Catholic Church, change is on the way.

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