Cardinals gather on eve of conclave to choose new pope | News | DW | 11.03.2013
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Cardinals gather on eve of conclave to choose new pope

The Catholic Church's 115 cardinals have gathered on the eve of the conclave to elect a new pope. Although there is no clear frontrunner, the Vatican has said it expects a "short conclave."

The cardinals held their final pre-conclave talks Monday, discussing the issues the next pope will face and vetting possible candidates to succeed Pope Benedict XVI following his shock resignation last month.

The meeting focused on the need to reform the Church's governing body, the Curia, and the Vatileaks scandal in which confidential church documents were given to the press. The leaks exposed infighting and allegations of sexual abuse, both likely to be major concerns for the future pontiff.

The conclave, which begins tomorrow, will decide the next leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. The pope's electors must take a solemn oath of secrecy or face excommunication.

Despite there being no clear frontrunner, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said this weekend he expects a "short conclave."

"I can assure you that of the 115 electors, there aren't many who have to worry about which name they would have to choose as pope."

Insiders put Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola in the lead, but still without the two-thirds support from the "cardinal electors" needed to become the 266th pope. 

The archbishop of Sao Paolo, Odilo Scherer, is also thought to have a chance. The conservative Brazilian is considered Latin America's best hope to replace the 85-year-old Benedict, who on February 11 announced he would be the first pope to resign for 700 years. 

The next head of the Catholic Church will need at least 77 votes to get elected. The first round of voting is set to begin Tuesday afternoon in the Sistine Chapel.

dr/rc  (AFP, dpa, AP)