The leadership of the Catholic Church has begun discussions ahead of elections for a new Pope.
The 115 cardinals of the ‘conclave’ locked themselves inside the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican for their deliberations.
The proceedings were initiated by Germany’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
He led a blessing of the Conclave before the cardinals filed inside the Chapel.
Ratzinger is considered by many to be among the frontrunners. Inside, the Cardinal electors swore an oath of secrecy. The election is taking place amid the tightest security – the chapel has been swept for electronic bugging devices.
In the past conclaves have been lengthy and arduous affairs – in the 13th century one lasted almost three years.
But analysts expect this gathering will, like those in recent history, last just a few days.
It is thought the white smoke which signals a decision has been made may be seen above the Vatican on Wednesday or Thursday.