World Bulletin / News Desk
With Pope Benedict XVI now officially in retirement, Catholic cardinals from around the world begin on Friday the complex process of picking the next leader of the world's largest church.
Some details are still unclear, owing to Benedict's break with the tradition that papacies end with a pope's death, so these "princes of the Church" will first hold an informal session before traditional rounds of talks begin on Monday.
No front-runner stands out among the 115 cardinal electors - those aged under 80 - due to enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave that picks the new pope, so discreetly sizing up potential candidates will be high on the cardinals' agenda.
They will also use the general congregations, the closed-door consultations preceding a conclave, to discuss future challenges such as better Vatican management, the need for improved communication and the continuing sexual abuse crisis.
Benedict ended his difficult eight-year reign on Thursday pledging unconditional obedience to whoever succeeds him to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics at one of the most problematic periods in the Church's 2,000-year history.
"The discussion we have in the congregations will be most important for the intellectual preparation" for choosing a pope, said Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley, adding the electors were already preparing spiritually for the vote by intense prayer.
"I would imagine each of us has some kind of list of primary candidates, and others secondary," said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago at a media briefing with O'Malley and another American cardinal, Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.Last Mod: 01 Mart 2013, 09:39