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A successor to Pope Benedict XVI is to be elected by 115 cardinals from across the world who will gather in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City on Tuesday evening. A two-thirds majority is required from the papal conclave. Only cardinals under 80 are allowed to participate in the conclave.
Pope Benedict XVI, 85, announced his decision to step down on February 11, blaming his failing health for his inability to "govern the barque of St. Peter." He is the first pontiff to resign in some 600 years.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals has held the Mass "Pro Eligendo Romano Pontefice" ("For the Election of the Roman Pontiff") in St Peter's Basilica. The cardinals, including those over 80 who will not vote in the conclave, are praying for the election of the new pope.
The conclave officially starts at 5:00 p.m. local time (6:00 p.m. GMT). After prayers, the cardinals may hold a first vote. If they do not succeed in electing a pope, the cardinals will return to their residence.
From Wednesday, the cardinals will vote four times a day, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon, until a new leader of the Roman Catholic Church is elected.