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Conclave Expected to Start Tuesday to Select Pope

Image: Conclave Expected to Start Tuesday to Select Pope
A car passes by Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican Thursday as cardinals meet in preconclave to set the date for the start of the conclave and help identify candidates to be the next Pope of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Friday, 08 Mar 2013 07:51 AM

The secret conclave to elect a successor to retired Pope Benedict XVI will begin on March 12, paving the way for a new pontiff to be in place before Easter.

Roman Catholic cardinals set the date during their fifth day of preliminary talks to prepare the vote, the Vatican said in an emailed statement Friday. The conclave in the 15th-century Sistine Chapel will be attended by 115 cardinals under the voting-age limit of 80.

“A ‘pro eligendo Romano Pontifice’ Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning,” the statement said. “In the afternoon the cardinals will enter into the conclave.”

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Cardinals from more than 50 nations and six continents, including those not of voting age, have spent the last week discussing challenges facing the Catholic Church and sizing up papal candidates, including the possibility of electing the first non-European Pope in 1,500 years. The Vatican has said it would like to have a Pope in place by Easter on March 31, and possibly by Holy Week, which starts on Palm Sunday, March 24.

Italian Cardinal Angelo Scola is currently the favorite to become the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics with 3-to-1 odds to take over after Benedict’s Feb. 28 abdication, according to betting company Paddy Power Plc. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana was second at 7 to 2, with Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone following on odds of 9 to 2.

The German-born Benedict, 85, became the first Pope in 600 years to abdicate when he stepped down, saying he no longer had the strength to lead the church. Electing his successor, the 266th Pope, involves a secret, centuries-old procedure that will offer few signs about the winner until white smoke wafts over St. Peter’s Square.

The new Pope will inherit a Church grappling over such issues as contraception and allowing a bigger role for women. Among his main tasks will be tackling priest sex-abuse scandals and possibly a reform of the Curia, the Holy See’s bureaucracy, after leaked papal documents last year depicted a web of Vatican intrigue.

The cardinals will be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, adorned with Michelangelo’s frescoes, and barred from contact with the outside world. Disobeying the election’s secrecy rules may result in excommunication.

On the conclave’s first morning, the cardinals hold a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and in the afternoon gather in formal dress in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, then move to the Sistine Chapel, which is swept for any electronic listening devices. The chapel is locked and sealed, the senior cardinal administers an oath of secrecy and the election begins.

One ballot may be conducted on the first day. If no candidate secures the necessary two-thirds of the vote, the balloting continues the next day, with as many as four votes, two in the morning and two in the afternoon.

Of the 115 cardinal electors, 67 of the electors were created by Benedict and the remaining 48 by John Paul II, his predecessor. Benedict was elected after two days and four ballots on April 19, 2005, 17 days after John Paul’s death.

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The secret conclave in the 15th-century Sistine Chapel will begin Tuesday and be attended by 115 cardinals under the age of 80, paving the way for a new pontiff to be in place before Easter.
Friday, 08 Mar 2013 07:51 AM
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