Cardinals gather in Rome for talks on new Pope
Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world have gathered in Rome to begin the process of electing the next Pope.
The College of Cardinals will hold daily talks leading up to a conclave in which a new Pope will be chosen.
The election process comes after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down, after nearly eight years in office leading the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
He was the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.
The first pre-conclave meeting on Monday morning is to be headed by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
Cardinals known as the "princes" of the Church will discuss future challenges to the Church and discreetly weigh up possible papal candidates.
The conclave to be held in the Sistine Chapel is expected to take place next week, though not all of the 115 cardinals involved have yet arrived in Rome.
Reports say the cardinal electors, those under the age of 80 who will take part in the conclave, will want the new Pope to be officially installed in time to preside over Holy Week.
Ceremonies start with Palm Sunday on March 24 and culminate in Easter the following Sunday.
Last year's "Vatileaks" scandal is expected to be high on the agenda when the cardinals meet.
The scandal exposed corruption and infighting in the Vatican through a series of leaked documents, and the cardinals expect this week, to be briefed on a confidential report into the scandal seen by Pope Benedict.
Reports said strict precautions against leaks of unauthorised information would be in operation at the Vatican until the next Pope has been chosen.
Technicians will debug the cardinals' lodgings and mobile phones will be banned altogether during the conclave.
But some cardinals have suggested the internal workings and possible failings of the Vatican's bureaucracy would not be a major factor in the decision to elect the next pope.
"I think the real priority in the conclave is to choose the pope who is going to deal with these great, global issues," said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington.
"If there are some internal problems in the Vatican, administrative problems in the Vatican, that'll eventually be dealt with. But it certainly isn't going to condition how I am going to be looking at who is going to guide and lead the church in the next years." Cardinal Wuerl explains.
The church's handling of allegations of sexual abuse is also a recurring issue.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, formerly Britain's former most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has said he would not take part in the conclave after standing down amid allegations of improper behaviour.
On Sunday, he admitted his sexual conduct had at times, "fallen beneath the standards expected of me" .
Cardinal O'Brien apologised and asked forgiveness from those whom he had "offended."
Cardinal O'Brien had resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, after three priests and a former priest made allegations against him dating back to the 1980s.