ROME — The Vatican announced this afternoon that the conclave of cardinals to elect the new pope will begin Tuesday, March 12, ending a week of meetings — called congregations — in which dozens of cardinals spoke amid discussions of the central issues facing the church. The cardinals adhered to a tight policy restricting access to the media in order to preserve decorum and a sense of fraternal confidence among the 115 who will vote.
"The other candidate," wrote Andrea Tornielli, a respected religion writer for La Stampa, "expected to start with a good number of votes is the Brazilian Odilo Pedro Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, who has a long curial and Vatican experience and would have the support of some influential Cardinals of the Curia."
The looming issue of restoring order to a Curia wracked with scandals and internal divisions would seem to favor a cardinal with bureaucratic experience. But if the votes drag on beyond a second day, it could well signal a compromise candidate from another background.