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Conclave To Elect Pope To Begin On Tuesday
The secret vote to elect a new Pope is set to begin next Tuesday at the Vatican.
The Vatican press office said the decision was taken during a meeting on Friday afternoon of the College of Cardinals.
Only Cardinals who are under the age of 80 - there are 115 - can take part in the election which is held behind locked doors in the Sistine Chapel.
The Chapel has been closed to the public as it is prepared for the conclave which is carried out according to strict protocols and ancient ritual.
The Cardinals will attend a mass on Tuesday morning before filing into the Chapel and holding their first vote that afternoon to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
Benedict announced he was resigning last month, saying he did not have the mental or physical strength to carry on as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
The conclave will take as long as is necessary. Cardinals hold two votes in the morning and two in the afternoon until one candidate gets a two-thirds majority - 77 votes.
When that happens white smoke will rise from the Vatican chimney as the votes are burnt signalling a new Pope has been selected.
If there is no majority, black smoke signals the conclave will continue for another day.
Within an hour of the white smoke, the new Pope will appear on the balcony of St Peter's basilica to the words "Habemus Papem" - "we have a Pope".