Vatican City: As the last of the 115 cardinal electors arrived in Rome, speculation has mounted that the cardinals would soon set a date for the start of the conclave to appoint Pope Benedict`s successor.
"We shall see, we shall see," Italian cardinal Crescenzio Sepe told journalists as he arrived at the Vatican on the fifth day of General Congregations or pre-conclave talks.
At his daily press briefing on Thursday, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said no date had yet been set for the conclave.
He said the Vatican`s finances would be the focus of the pre-conclave talks, attended by elector cardinals and those aged over 80 who are ineligible to elect the next pope.
The conclave venue, the Vatican`s world-famous Sistine Chapel, has been off-limits to tourists since March 05 as a raised floor to conceal bugging devices and two stoves attached to the renaissance chapel`s chimney: one to burn ballots and the second to send up the smoke that signals to the word if a new pontiff has been elected.
When a candidate obtains two-thirds of the cardinal electors` votes, the smoke from the Sistine Chapel`s chimney turns from black to white to announce that a new pope has been chosen.
Cardinals have said they want to elect a new pope by the start of Easter Holy Week March 24.
The 85-year-old Benedict, whose papacy was hit by a series of scandals, abdicated on February 28 on the grounds that he lacked the physical and mental strength to stay in the job.