Vatican City: The process of electing a new pope has begun with cardinals from around the world arriving in the Vatican for pre-conclave meeting which began Monday.
The election of a new pope was necessitated after Pope Benedict XVI resigned on Feb 28, citing health reasons.
The meeting headed by dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodao would decide the date for the conclave and set in place procedures to prepare for it, including closing the Sistine Chapel to visitors and getting the Vatican hotel cleared out and de-bugged, lest anyone try to listen in on the secret conversations of the cardinals.
Various scandals that have rocked Vatican and resignation of Benedict will be some of the main issues that will be part of the conclave. Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope to step down in the last 600 years.
The function of the pre-conclave sessions is to discuss core issues facing the church and for the cardinals to get to know one another better — both of which are designed to help the 115 voting-age "princes" of the church choose the right man for the papacy.
This time around, there`s one unofficial agenda item that is attracting the most attention: a briefing from the three cardinals who conducted the investigation into the leaks of confidential documents from the pope`s study.
Italian news reports have been rife with unsourced reports about the purported contents of the cardinals` dossier — reports which the Vatican has labeled as "false."
Even if the reports are off, though, the leaks themselves confirmed a fairly high level of dysfunction within the Vatican bureaucracy, with intrigues, turf battles and allegations of corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the highest levels of the church hierarchy.
In one of his last audiences before resigning, Benedict met with the three cardinals who prepared the report and decided that their dossier would remain secret. But he gave them the go-ahead to answer cardinals` questions about its contents.
Another topic facing the cardinals is the reason they`re here in the first place: Benedict`s resignation and its implications. His decision to end 600 years of tradition and retire rather than stay on the job until death has completely altered the concept of the papacy, and cardinals haven`t shied from weighing in about the implications for the next pope.