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Conclave to elect new Pope to start Tuesday

The Vatican has confirmed the conclave of Roman Catholic cardinals to elect the next Pope will begin on Tuesday, March 12th.

The announcement came after 115 cardinals voted in Rome this afternoon after a week of prayer and discussion.

They were able to make the final decision after the late arrival of Vietnamese Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man.

In the past 100 years, no conclave has lasted longer than five days.

Yesterday, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles tweeted that the discussions were "reaching a conclusion" and that a mood of "excitement" was taking hold.

All of the cardinals, including those who are too old to vote, have been meeting all week to debate some of the key issues facing the Catholic Church.

Premier's Maria Rodrigues Toth is out in Rome and told the News Hour what's been on the agenda:

Over the past week deliberations have exposed sharp divisions among cardinals about some of the pressing problems facing the church, including governance within the Holy See itself.

Most cardinals outlining their priorities for the future put "governance" or "reform of the Curia" high on their list, saying other reforms can flow from that.

Benedict XVI stepped down last month after nearly eight years in office, saying his failing health meant he felt he didn't have the ability to carry on.

During his reign he had to steer the Catholic Church through a worldwide scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests.

The cardinals have voted 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: Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland and Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja of Indonesia.

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

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

Cardinal Darmaatmadja cited health reasons.

There are also tensions between traditionalists and reformers over issues including priestly celibacy, gay rights and the role of women.

The "Vatileaks" scandal last year showed corruption and in-fighting at high levels, and the Curia is not known for efficiency in its ranks.

The conclave will take place in the Sistine Chapel, where there are two stoves that will produce white smoke from burnt ballot papers when a new pope is elected.

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