VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Preparations for electing Roman Catholicism’s new leader begin in earnest on Monday as the College of Cardinals opens daily talks to sketch an identikit for the next pope and ponder who among them might fit it.
The idea is to have the new pope elected during next week and officially installed several days later so he can preside over the Holy Week ceremonies starting with Palm Sunday on March 24 and culminating in Easter the following Sunday.
Roman Catholicism faces a serious challenge from the rising number of people who believe in God but no longer see any need for a church, according to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Narrowing down lists of about a dozen potential popes to a handful of serious hopefuls will be one of the main tasks of the closed-door meetings that Catholic cardinals begin on Monday.
A relaxed and rested Pope Emeritus Benedict read messages from well-wishers and strolled in his retirement palace gardens on Friday as cardinals due to elect his successor planned pre-vote meetings for next week.