After days of meetings in semi-secrecy, the Vatican says it will announce later on Friday the start date of the conclave to elect a new pope.
It has suggested that the date will be either early or in the middle of next week. The 115 cardinals who are eligible to vote for Benedict’s successor are currently deciding the precise day.
It is important as some want more time to debate the Catholic Church’s problems.
“If you ask me what the date might be that they will decide on, in my opinion it will be one of the first days next week. So they will certainly not decide to start tomorrow or Sunday but they may decide to start Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” said the Vatican’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.
As to the future pope’s identity, reports say there are two broad camps: those who want reform of the Church’s hierarchy and are rallying round an Italian cardinal, and traditionalists who favour a foreign pontiff under centralised control.