BY | March 8, 2013

Vatican City, (IANS/AKI) As the last of the 115 cardinal electors arrived in Rome, speculation has mounted that the cardinals would soon set a date for the start of the conclave to appoint Pope Benedict’s successor.

“We shall see, we shall see,” Italian cardinal Crescenzio Sepe told journalists as he arrived at the Vatican on the fifth day of General Congregations or pre-conclave talks.

At his daily press briefing Thursday, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said no date had yet been set for the conclave.

He said the Vatican’s finances would be the focus of the pre-conclave talks, attended by elector cardinals and those aged over 80 who are ineligible to elect the next pope.

The conclave venue, the Vatican’s world-famous Sistine Chapel has been off-limits to tourists since March 5 as a raised floor to conceal bugging devices and two stoves attached to the renaissance chapel’s chimney: one to burn ballots and the second to send up the smoke that signals to the word if a new pontiff has been elected.

When a candidate obtains two-thirds of the cardinal electors’ votes, the smoke from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney turns from black to white to announce that a new pope has been chosen.

Cardinals have said they want to elect a new pope by the start of Easter Holy Week March 24.

The 85-year-old Benedict, whose papacy was hit by a series of scandals, abdicated Feb 28 on the grounds that he lacked the physical and mental strength to stay in the job.

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