Conclave to Elect Pope to Start on Tuesday

Rome (CNN) — The conclave to elect a new pope will begin on Tuesday, March 12, the Vatican press office said Friday.

cardinals-picThere will be 115 cardinal-electors taking part in the conclave, the Vatican confirmed. Only those younger than 80 are eligible to vote.

The cardinals voted Friday morning to accept the letters of explanation of two cardinal-electors who are eligible to vote for the next pope but will not attend the conclave: Keith O’Brien of Scotland and Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja of Indonesia.

Darmaatmadja cited health reasons, and O’Brien cited personal reasons.

O’Brien resigned in scandal last week after allegations that he made sexual advances toward young men studying to be priests.

He apologized in a statement Sunday, saying, “There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”

Since Monday, the cardinals have been uniting for what are known as General Congregations, a series of meetings in which they discuss the issues facing the church.

There is no rule about how long has to elapse before a conclave begins, Lombardi said.

In 2005, it was three days after the end of the General Congregations, he said, but that’s not necessarily a guide for this year.

Among the things the cardinals have to do is draw lots for which rooms they get at the Casa Santa Marta, the residence within the walls of Vatican City where they stay during the conclave.

The voting occurs in the Sistine chapel, beneath the famed ceiling painted by Michelangelo.

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