The conclave that will result in the selection of a new pope will begin on Tuesday, the Vatican says.
In an email, Father Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest in Rome helping the Vatican with English language media relations, said a pre-election mass will be celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica that morning. The 115 cardinals eligible to vote for the next pope will enter the conclave in the afternoon.
The decision was announced after cardinals met Friday for their fifth day of discussions, called general congregations, ahead of the election of a new leader for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
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Vietnamese Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, the last of the 115 cardinals eligible to vote on the next pontiff, arrived in Rome Thursday, paving the way for Friday's vote on the commencement date of the conclave.
Three Canadians — Cardinal Thomas Collins, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, considered by some to be a contender to become the next pope, and Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte — are in Rome to participate in the conclave.
When the conclave begins Tuesday afternoon, the cardinals will file into the Sistine Chapel in a grand procession and its famous doors will be closed, CBC News Vatican analyst David Perlich said.
"We'll hear the words extra omnes, everyone out," he said.
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Once sealed inside the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals will swear an extra oath of secrecy.
One vote on successor could be held on the first day of conclave. On subsequent days, two votes will be held in the mornings and two in the afternoons.
"Any one of those votes could bring us a new pope," Perlich said.
The conclave was prompted by the February resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, who is now pope emeritus.
'Jesus Christ with an MBA'
Rev. Thomas Reese, an analyst with the National Catholic Reporter and a senior fellow at Georgetown University, said he thinks the cardinals will try to get a new pope elected "as soon as possible."
"I don't think they will take more than two, maybe three, days at most," he said, pointing out that the conclave that elected Benedict took only about 24 hours.
However, Reese said he doesn't see any frontrunners among the cardinals considered as possible future popes, meaning it may take more time to reach a final selection.
Reese said the cardinals are looking for someone bright, who knows Catholic theology, and who is a good communicator. At the same time, because of recent problems with the Curia, the Vatican's bureaucray, they are looking for someone who can "reorganize and reform" it, he said.
"In other words, they're looking for Jesus Christ with an MBA."
But they won't find that person, Reese added.
"There's nobody with all the qualifications needed."