VATICAN CITY — Cardinals gathered for their final day of talks Monday before the conclave to elect the next pope, amid debate over whether the Catholic Church needs more of a manager pope to clean up the Vatican or a pastoral pope who can inspire the faithful at a time of crisis.
Several cardinals were signed up to speak at the private morning session, an indication that the red-capped prelates still have plenty to discuss before sequestering themselves Tuesday afternoon in the Sistine Chapel for the first vote.
Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto acknowledged the importance of the task at hand, telling reporters as he arrived Monday: "Yes, tomorrow is a very important day in the history of the church."
There's no clear front-runner for a job most cardinals say they would never want, but a handful of names are circulating as top candidates to lead the 1.2 billion-strong church at a critical time in its history.
Tuesday morning, the dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, leads the celebration of the "Pro eligendo Pontificie" Mass — the Mass for the election of a pope — inside St. Peter's Basilica, joined by the 115 cardinals who will vote.
They break for lunch at the hotel, and return for the 4:30 p.m. procession into the Sistine Chapel, chanting the Litany of Saints, the hypnotic Gregorian chant imploring the intercession of the saints to help guide the voting. They then take their oath of secrecy, listen to a meditation by elderly Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech, and cast the first ballots.
The first puffs of smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney should emerge sometime around 6:30 p.m. Black smoke from the burned ballot papers means no pope. White smoke means the 266th pope has been chosen.