The Vatican on Friday officially summoned cardinals to the Holy See to begin preparations for electing the new leader of the Catholic Church, a day after Benedict XVI resigned to a life of seclusion.

Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, set the first General Congregation of Cardinals for Monday at 9.30 a.m. (2 p.m. IST). A second meeting is slated for 5 p.m. (9.30 p.m. IST) the same day.

Selecting a pontiff (PDF)

Benedict XVI ended his papacy at 8 p.m. on Thursday (12.30 a.m. IST, Friday), claiming that at 85, he was too frail to continue in office. He retired to Castel Gandolfo, on the outskirts of Rome, and will not return to the Vatican until a new Pope is elected.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that Benedict XVI had “slept very well” after becoming the first Pope in almost 600 years to resign from his post.

Benedict XVI watched news broadcasts about his resignation on television, which “he appreciated very much,” and after dinner went for “a little walk” in the corridors of the papal palace in Castel Gandolfo, Rev. Lombardi said.

On Friday morning, he celebrated mass at 7 a.m. (11.30 a.m. IST). In the coming days, as well as praying and studying, the former Pope also planned to “play a bit of piano in the evening,” Rev. Lombardi added.

As he left the Vatican, the so-called “pope emeritus” took with him books on theology, spirituality and history, as well as some music records, the spokesman indicated.

Cardinals from around the world have already begun arriving for next week’s General Congregation, a forum for preliminary discussions that may last several days.

Rev. Lombardi told reporters not to expect news about the conclave to emerge on Monday. “A decision is not foreseeable” on that day, he said.

The aim is to have a new Pope by Easter, which this year falls on March 31.

More In: World | International | News