Cardinals meet for last congregation before conclave

The vote will happen in the Sistine chapel. (3/11/13)

ROME - The process of selecting a new pope is about to begin.

Cardinals from around the world met in Rome today, where they could select a new pope as soon as tomorrow.

Crowds spilled out the front door of one church Sunday to catch a glimpse of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Inside Mass, Dolan told the faithful, "This is a big task. Truly a blessing to be with you. Now let's get to why we're here, to pray."

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Vatican workers scaled the roof at the legendary Sistine chapel this weekend to install a new chimney. The chimney is needed to relay information on the cardinals' votes once the conclave begins. Crews also installed two stoves inside the chapel. One will burn the cardinals' ballots after they vote. The other will send up white or black smoke.

In tradition, black smoke means there's no pope yet and white smoke means there's a new one selected.

The conclave begins Tuesday when the 115 cardinals move into a special Vatican residence prepared for them. 

In the afternoon, they will file into the Sistine chapel for one vote.

Most people don't expect to see the white smoke right away because the field of contenders is believed to be wide open.

Vatican watchers say this conclave, unlike the last one in 2005, could go on for twice as long because there's no clear front runner. 


 

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