The Catholic Church’s 115 cardinal electors were due to meet Monday at the Vatican on the eve of the conclave that will elect a new pope following Benedict XVI’s resignations.
The 10th General Congregation represents the last opportunity for the so-called Princes of the Church to discuss the main issues facing the next pontificate, and the man best suited to tackle them.
Pre-conclave discussions have so far focussed on the need to reform the Church’s governing council, the Curia, and the Vatileaks scandals, which has exposed infighting and sexual allegations.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi has said he expects a “short conclave.” “I can assure you that of the 115 electors, there aren’t many who have to worry about which name they would have to choose as pope,” Mr. Lombardi said at the weekend, in remarks seen as suggesting that the race for the papacy is restricted to only a few names.
Expectations for a quick conclave have been echoed by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who on Sunday played down rumours of strong disagreement among the electors and predicted that a new pope would be elected “in a few days.” Most Vatican experts predict a race between reformists, headed by the likes of Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan and Marc Ouellet of Canada, and conservatives such as Cardinal Pedro Odilo Scherer of Brazil.
A compromise candidate could well emerge in the form of Peter Erdo of Hungary.
The next pope should be both “a pastor” capable of increasing the appeal of the Church and a “man of government” capable of reforming it, Monsignor Rino Fisichella told Italian daily Il Messaggero .
The next pope will need to secure at least 77 votes to be elected, with the first round of voting due to begin on Tuesday afternoon at the Sistine Chapel.