VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 04: A cardinal arrives at the Paul VI hall for the opening of the Cardinals' Congregations on March 4, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. The congregations of cardinals will continue until all cardinal electors have arrived in Rome, whereupon the College will decide on the start-date of the Conclave to elect a new Pope. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
The Roman Catholic Church is without a Pope as Pope Benedict Emeritus started his first full day of retirement Friday. The cardinals have received an official letter to begin their meetings on Monday but no date has been set for the conclave to elect Benedict's successor. Mary Ann Ahern reports.
The Cardinals held their first formal meeting early Monday in Rome since Pope Benedict XVI formally resigned. Media swarmed the group as they arrived for their first pre-conclave meeting at the Synod, the audience hall where the pope held his weekly general audience.
No date has been set for the conclave to pick the new pope as the group waits for 12 more cardinals to arrive. While the pre-conclave meetings are closed to the public, the Vatican allowed a few moments of video Monday from the beginning prayers.
Cardinals were seated in the synod in order of "presence," or when they were elevated to cardinal, and will begin each meeting with a prayer. The dean of the College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano presides over the meetings as interpreters speak in Italian, French, Spanish, German and English. The interpreters must take a vow of secrecy not to repeat what they hear to general congregations.
In all, 142 of the 207 living cardinals were present, including those over 80 years old who will not vote. In total 115 will vote, and the last 12 are expected to arrive from various parts of the world later today or tomorrow. A Vatican spokesman said there is "rigorous secrecy."
Three names were chosen to run the church during the "interregnum" -- Cardinals Battista Re, Crescenzio Sepe and Franc Rode -- though they haven't forgotten the new Pope Emeritus. Cardinal Sodano asked the cardinals to write and send a message to Benedict.
At Monday's session, 13 of the cardinals spoke about how to organize their days. Cardinal Lombardi describes the mood as "positive, serene and promising of an intense discussion of needs of church in days to come."
As for the conclave date, Lombardi said it must be set "in coming days." As Cardinal Sodano puts it, they must "wait until things mature" before asking for a vote. Once the conclave begins, discussions are over and the cardinals will enter the Sistine Chapel to pray and vote.
Even Chicago's Cardinal Francis George has indicated the Vatican must put its own house in order after the Vati-leaks scandal, and cardinals were told Monday the prefects or presidents of each Vatican office are ready to give a report to the cardinals if asked.
When asked if Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien will remain a cardinal even after admitting to sexual misconduct, a Vatican spokesman declined to comment.