[QODLink]
Europe

Cardinals prepare to choose new pope

Catholic cardinals gather in Rome to choose successor to Benedict XVI who resigned citing health issues.
Last Modified: 12 Mar 2013 09:06

Roman Catholic cardinals have gathered in Rome ahead of a secretive conclave to choose a new pope with no clear frontrunner in sight.

The 115 Roman Catholic priests known as Cardinal Electors will begin the daunting task of electing the successor of Benedict XVI who resigned citing health issues.

Their deliberations will take place in what is probably the most famous of the Vatican's buildings - the Sistine Chapel.

They are set to hold a first round of voting late Tuesday afternoon.

The cardinals will be completely cut off - banned from any communication with the outside world and bound by a strict oath of secrecy on pain of excommunication - until they have chosen one in their midst to be pope.

The preists held their final closed-door debate on Monday over whether the church needs more of a manager to clean up the Vatican's bureaucratic mess or a pastor to inspire the faithful in times of crisis.

Around 90 Vatican staff, including cooks, drivers and security guards, took part in a ceremony at the Vatican's Paolina Chapel on Monday.

The staff, who are assisting the cardinals, have pledged not to reveal what they might hear in the coming days.

Emotional farewells

The tradition of holding conclaves goes back to the 13th century when cardinals were locked into the papal palace in Viterbo near Rome by the angry faithful because they were taking too long to make their decision.

That conclave still dragged on for nearly three years but the rules have been reworked since then and the longest conclave in the past century - in 1922 - lasted only five days. Benedict's election took just two days.

Benedict stunned the world on February 11, announcing that he no longer had the strength of body and mind to keep up with a fast-changing modern world shaken by vital questions for the Roman Catholic Church.

In a series of emotional farewells, 85-year-old Benedict said he would live "hidden from the world" and wanted only to be "a simple pilgrim" on life's last journey.

Vatican experts have said the German's decision, which makes him only the second pope to resign by choice in the Church's 2,000-year history, could mean future popes will also step down once their strengths begin to fail them.

Cardinals prayed for divine guidance at their last Sunday masses before the conclave in churches across Rome.

445

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
More than 400 gaming dens operate on native lands, but critics say social ills and inequality stack the deck.
The Palestinian president is expected to address the UN with a new proposal for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Nearly 1,200 aboriginal females have been killed or disappeared over 30 years with little justice served, critics say.
Ethnic violence has wracked China's restive Xinjiang region, leading to a tight government clampdown.
Malay artists revitalise the art of puppeteering by fusing tradition with modern characters such as Darth Vader.