Cardinals celebrate Mass before entering conclave

By Nicole Winfield

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 7:32 a.m. MDT

The buzz swirled around Cardinal Angelo Scola, an Italian seen as favored by cardinals hoping to shake up the powerful Vatican bureaucracy, and Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Scherer, a favorite of Vatican-based insiders intent on preserving the status quo. Other names included Canadian Cardinal Marc Oullet, who heads the Vatican's powerful office for bishops, and American Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Going into the vote, cardinals offered wildly different assessments of what they're looking for in the next pontiff and how close they are to a decision. It was evidence that Benedict XVI's surprise resignation has continued to destabilize the church leadership and that his final appeal for unity may go unheeded, at least in the early rounds of voting.

Even the American cardinals couldn't agree on whether to expect a short or long conclave.

Dolan this week expressed optimism that the election would be wrapped up quickly. That appeared to be in stark contrast with the view of Chicago Cardinal Francis George: His spokeswoman, Colleen Dolan, told The Associated Press that the cardinal suggested it could be a drawn-out affair.

George raised the possibility that the cardinals may still be meeting by Saturday, Dolan said, when conclave rules require the cardinals to take a break and spend some time in prayer before resuming voting.

The faithful in St. Peter's square were also weighing in on the papal stakes.

"I don't think it's going to be a European pope," said Michael Flueckiger, a 38-year-old caretaker and sacristan of a church in Slamatt, Switzerland. "In Europe sometimes I think we have given away the gift of faith, many people have lost the faith, they have lost their expectation in God."

A few cardinals also sent their last tweets before entering the conclave, which forbids communication with the outside world.

"Heavenly Father, guide our hearts and grant us wisdom and strength tomorrow," Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, considered to have an outside chance to be pope, tweeted late Monday.

Rachel Zoll, Karl Ritter and Daniela Petroff contributed

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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