The Cardinals held prayers and took oaths of secrecy at their first meeting, which was organised by the College of Cardinals. The meeting was presided over by the dean of the college, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. A series of daily meetings would take place before the all-important conclave, where the new Pope will be chosen, begins at Sistine Chapel next week.
Sources in the Vatican said of the 115 Cardinals associated with the conclave, 101 had already arrived in Rome while another 12 were due to arrive by Tuesday. Two, UK's Cardinal Keith O'Brien and Indonesia's Julius Darmaatmadja, were not attending the conclave. While the former stood down owing to charges of improper conduct, the latter was not keeping well.
The Cardinals will discuss the future challenges and names of possible papal candidates at the meetings ahead of the conclave. The "Vatileaks" scandals are also likely to be discussed during the talks. The electors, those aged below 80 and will take part in the conclave, will prefer that the new Pope is officially installed in time so that he can preside over the Holy Week. Celebrations will begin with Palm Sunday on March 24 and culminate in the Easter the next Sunday.
Pope Benedict XVI was the first pontiff to quit in 600 years, after serving nearly eight years in office. He led 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world during his stint.