The Catholic Church’s cardinals are into their last seven days of pre-conclave meetings. Between now and April 18 they will hammer out their doctrinal and geopolitical differences to try and come to some agreement before they are locked into the Vatican city to choose a new Pope.
Once the conclave begins, there is precious little time to debate and negotiate, as it is almost non-stop voting, with four ballots every day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, before they reach a decision.
They will do so in the exalted surroundings of the Sistine Chapel, an inspiring setting, and their votes will be collected for the first time in urns redesigned for the new century. Some of the 1.1 billion faithful around the world may be hoping for an inspired, and modern, choice of man.
Next Monday, with the words “extra omnes”, the non-voting cardinals will be dismissed, and 115 princes of the church will bend to their task. All but one of them owe their jobs to the John Paul II, so it is likely the white smoke announcing a successful choice will herald a man in his image.