Cardinals begin long process of picking new pope
VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - With Pope Benedict XVI now officially in retirement, Catholic cardinals from around the world begin on Friday the complex, cryptic and uncertain process of picking the next leader of the world's largest church.
Some details are still unclear, owing to Benedict's break with the tradition that papacies end with a pope's death, so these "princes of the Church" will first hold an informal session before traditional rounds of talks begin on Monday.
No front-runner stands out among the 115 cardinal electors - those aged under 80 - due to enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave that picks the new pope, so discreetly sizing up potential candidates will be high on the cardinals' agenda.
They will also use the general congregations, the closed-door consultations preceding a conclave, to discuss future challenges such as better Vatican management, the need for improved communication and the continuing sexual abuse crisis.