Cardinals to begin meetings on Monday

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March 1, 2013, 7:02 pm
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(NECN/NBC News: Mary Ann Ahern) - The Roman Catholic Church is without a pope as Benedict starts his first full day of retirement.

The cardinals have received an official letter to begin their meetings on Monday, but no date has yet been set for the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor.

Before the 115 cardinals who will elect the next pope cast their votes at the Sistine Chapel, they will move into the Casa Santa Marta, where the telephones and televisions are disconnected. It's also swept for eavesdropping devices.

First though they will hold general congregation meetings inside what is known as the Pope's Audience Hall starting Saturday.

Topping their list of concerns is getting the Vatican's house in order.

"There's a crisis of confidence that was made quite clear in the VatiLeaks scandal," Chicago's Cardinal Francis George said.

On the streets of Rome, there's a first: Campaign-style posters for African Cardinal Peter Turkson. It's not clear who produced them.

"I can imagine a first ballot in which 15 or 20 names end up on those ballot papers, deposited in that chalice beneath 'The Last Judgment.' This is going to take a while I think," Vatican expert George Weigel explains.

Professor Donna Orsuto, the director of the Lay Center, waits anxiously.

"What I see right now is a tremendous encouragement, sign of hope. A real hope for the future," Orsuto said.

The next pope certainly has plenty of issues awaiting him. Among them are American Roman Catholics being concerned with allowing priests to marry, ordaining women and even same-sex marriage. But in other parts of the world, there are concerns of war, hunger and human rights issues.

Tags: cardinals, Vatican, Roman Catholic Church, Rome, Benedict XVI, mary ann ahern
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