Vatican City:  Cardinals from around the globe will hold a conclave to elect a new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics next week, the Vatican said, although the exact date will be set later on Friday.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said a meeting of cardinals that ends at 2330 IST would take a vote on the date for the start of the conclave. "The conclave will be next week. It could be Wednesday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, maybe even Thursday," Lombardi said at a press briefing.
The Vatican said all 115 "cardinal electors" who will vote in the conclave are now in Rome. The last elector, Vietnam's Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, arrived on Thursday and like his colleagues swore a solemn oath not to divulge the content of pre-conclave talks between cardinals.
At a meeting on Friday, the cardinals formally voted to accept the reasons given by two electors for absenting themselves from the conclave: Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatjadja is ill, while British Cardinal Keith O'Brien withdrew after admitting "inappropriate acts" with priests.
In the run-up to the conclave, the Princes of the Church have seized the rare chance of being able to air their grievances against the Vatican, with no new pope to defer to and no old pope to mourn. Benedict XVI suddenly announced his resignation last month saying he was too old to keep up with a fast-changing modern world, an unprecedented decision in modern Catholic history that has sent shockwaves through the Church worldwide.
The meetings of elderly cardinals that began on Monday are normally something of a formality before the conclave to elect a new pope but this time around they have taken a revolutionary turn. The closed-door talks are protected by an oath of secrecy, but the voices calling for change have been growing louder after the first papal resignation since the Middle Ages.


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