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Sistine Chapel Closes as Cardinals Gather in Vatican City to Pick Next Pope

By Alexandra Ward   |   Tuesday, 05 Mar 2013 02:43 PM

The Sistine Chapel has closed to visitors as the Roman Catholic cardinals who will next week begin the process of choosing a new Pope arrive in Vatican City.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said during a press briefing Tuesday that 110 of the 115 cardinals aged under 80 who will take part in the election had arrived in Rome. The conclave is expected to begin early next week, with the goal of naming Pope Benedict XVI's replacement.

Benedict announced his resignation Feb. 11, becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to step down.

The idea is to have the new Pope elected during next week and officially installed several days later so he can preside over the Holy Week ceremonies starting with Palm Sunday on March 24 and culminating in Easter the following Sunday.

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Vatican officials are now making logistical preparations to the Sistine Chapel in anticipation of the conclave. Journalist credentials for more than 5,000 reporters who have applied to cover the meeting have to be granted, and a false floor has to be installed to hide any anti-bugging devices, according to the Guardian.

The selection process won't be rushed, Lombardi said at the briefing through an interpreter, because it calls for "discernment and reflection."

Cardinals are not supposed to speak publicly about their picks for Pope, but Cardinal and Archbishop of Chicago Francis George told the Guardian one quality he's looking for in a candidate.

"He obviously has to accept the universal code of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who has abused a child," George said. "There's a deep-seated conviction, certainly on the part of anyone who has been a pastor, that this has to be continually addressed."

Indeed, many cardinals are looking to move as far away as possible from the internal scandal that rocked Pope Benedict's papacy.

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