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Monday, April 18, 2005

The New York Times > International > International Special > In Vast Secrecy, Conclave of Cardinals Is Set to Elect Pope

The New York Times > International > International Special > In Vast Secrecy, Conclave of Cardinals Is Set to Elect Pope: "April 18, 2005
In Vast Secrecy, Conclave of Cardinals Is Set to Elect Pope
By DANIEL J. WAKIN

ROME, April 17 - Bathed in mystery and, many believe, the Holy Spirit, the conclave to elect a new pope that opens Monday marries the highest Roman Catholic Church solemnity with one of history's longest-lived electoral experiences.

The event - which has not occurred in more than 26 years but dates back nearly a millennium - is a unique mix of pageantry and practicality, a regal balloting exercise that even a big city ward heeler might recognize.

In theory, the 115 voting cardinals are all candidates. But tradition and human nature work together to create a rough winnowing process.

'They try to be inspired by the will of God in prayer,' said Ambrogio M. Piazzoni, a conclave historian who works in the Vatican library. 'In the end, it's the cardinals who say who will be the next pope.'

The first vote - which could occur as early as Monday night - is likely to be showdown time, Vatican analysts said.

Historically, before being sequestered, the cardinals have already coalesced around several favorites, thanks to formal daily meetings and informal encounters in the days after the pope's death. The strength of support becomes clear in that first vote."

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