Nearly a month after Pope Benedict XVI announced his surprise decision to retire, Roman Catholic cardinals on Friday said they will begin voting to choose his replacement on Tuesday.
That means 115 cardinals who were under the age of 80 when Benedict stepped down on Feb. 28 will file into the Sistine Chapel and under solemn vows of secrecy decide who among them will be the next pope.
They and another 38 cardinals over 80 have spent most of the last week here debating the momentous troubles facing the church and discussing which traits are most important in the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
Officially, the College of Cardinals, as it is known, could not vote on a start-date for the conclave, the sessions in which the pope is elected, until all members were present. On Thursday afternoon, the last cardinal, Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Vietnam, flew into town.
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