Cardinals convene in the Vatican as vote preparations begin
on 05/03/2013 00:00:00
The Vatican appears to be aiming to have a new pope elected next week and officially installed several days later, so he can preside over the Holy Week ceremonies starting with Palm Sunday on Mar 24 and culminating in Easter the following Sunday.
Pope Benedict left the Church in a state of shock when he announced last month that he would be the first pontiff in 600 years to resign instead of ruling for life. He formally stepped down on Thursday.
High on the agenda at the general congregations is the daunting challenges that will face the next pontiff, including the sexual abuse crisis and the "Vatileaks" scandal which exposed corruption and rivalries in the Vatican's bureaucracy.
"We need a man of governance, by that I mean a man who is able with the people he chooses to help him in an intimate way to govern the Church," said Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O'Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster in London, on BBC radio.
"Among the things we will be talking about out here are precisely the need in looking for a new pope for these failings that have happened again to be treated, to be faced strongly."
The cardinals, numbering about 150, are expected to hold one or two meetings a day. The Vatican seems keen to have only a week of preliminary talks so the 115 "cardinal electors" under the age of 80 can enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave next week. The exact date for its start has not been decided.
"We have meetings all this week to get to know each other better and consider the situations that we face," said Cardinal Andre Vingt- Trois of Paris as he entered.
He said he could not say at this stage "who will be the best one to respond to them".
Cardinals expect to be briefed on a secret report to the pope on the problems highlighted by last year's Vatileaks scandal, when documents which alleged corruption in the Vatican and infighting over the running of its bank were leaked to the media.
The preliminary meetings also give cardinals the chance to size up potential candidates by watching them closely in the debates and checking discreetly with other cardinals about their qualifications or any skeletons in their closets.
Cardinals never reveal publicly who they prefer but drop hints in interviews by discussing the identikit for their ideal candidate. The most frequently mentioned quality here is an ability to communicate the Catholic faith convincingly.
No frontrunner stands out, but leading candidates include Peter Turkson of Ghana, Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, Austrian Christoph Schönborn, Brazil's Odilo Scherer, Canadian Marc Ouellet, and Angelo Scola from Italy.