Cardinals hold Mass before papal election

VATICAN CITY (CBS) - The cardinals tasked with electing the Catholic Church's new pope began Tuesday morning with a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

The 115 cardinal electors will return to their hotel-like quarters for lunch before shutting themselves into the Sistine Chapel for the first day of the actual papal conclave -- the ritualistic voting process which will see them chose the next pontiff.

The process comes on the heels of the first resignation of a pope in about 600 years, and will serve to install a new Catholic leader with hopes of steering the Church out of an era marked by scandal and allegations of infighting and mismanagement.

Pope Benedict XVI's resignation exacerbated the problems the Church has been attempting to deal with quietly for more than a year, sparking speculation that corruption and poor management practices brought vividly to light by the publication of private documents from the pontiff's own desk might even have catalyzed his decision to step down.

In his wake, the now-Pope Emeritus Benedict left a Church divided, by many accounts, between the Vatican's inner-circle of prelates who dominate its bureaucracy, known as the Curia, and many cardinals from outside that circle who feel, perhaps more keenly, pressure from their congregations and the world at large to drag the 2,000 year old institution into the 21st century.

Cardinals from the Americas, Asia and Africa have indicated that change must come, throwing around words like "transparency" and "openness" which may make some of their colleagues in the Church who cherish its long-entrenched tradition of secrecy uncomfortable.

When the 115 cardinal electors -- by Church rules all cardinals under the age of 80 who are physically able to attend -- enter the Sistine Chapel later Tuesday, they will have already discussed for days the qualities the new pontiff should possess, and whom among them they believe should be given the task.

Indications are that the cardinals struggled to agree on whether the priority should be finding a new pope with the oratory gifts and persona to draw non-Catholics into the flock, or with the temperament and managerial skills to get the Church bureaucracy and finances in order. There is not thought to be one man who possesses all of those qualities in unison, leaving the field of potential pontiffs, or "papabili," wide open.

"This time around, there are many different candidates, so it's normal that it's going to take longer than the last time," Chile's Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz told The Associated Press, adding an oft-repeated claim that, "there are no groups, no compromises, no alliances, just each one with his conscience voting for the person he thinks is best, which is why I don't think it will be over quickly."

For any man to be elected, he must garner the support of 77 of the 115 cardinals voting. On Tuesday, the cardinals may chose to hold their first round of voting, or they may decide to put that off until the second day of the conclave on Wednesday.

The cardinals are expected to enter the Sistine Chapel and close the doors, sealing themselves off from all outside influence and contact, at about 11:30 a.m. Eastern, and will provide live video as they enter the ornate chapel in solemn procession.

Beginning Wednesday morning, the cardinals will hold two rounds of voting, with two ballots each, every day until a single candidate reaches the 77-vote threshold. Two votes will be held in the morning and if they are inconclusive, another two will be held in the afternoon. All voting ballots will be burned in small ovens in the chapel after each round of voting, producing the smoke which, when black, indicates no pope has been elected and when white, indicates a new pontiff has been chosen.

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