By Marzia De Giuli
ROME, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Cardinals of Roman catholic church from all over the world have come to Vatican City in Rome to prepare for filling the vacant seat of the Pope after Benedict XVI renounced the office of Bishop of Rome along with its powers.
They attend meetings for election of a new Pope in a conclave expected to be held next weekend and discussions over thansformation of an old and scandal-hit church into a new and modern one.
The Pope emeritus, who can also keep the name of Benedict XVI he took at the beginning of his pontificate in 2005, was temporarily living in Castel Gandolfo, the palace used by Popes as a summer retreat. He will take up residence in a monastery inside the walls of Vatican City when renovations are complete.
On his last hours in office, he pledged to respect and obey his successor in front of thousands of Catholic believers and other spectators from across the world, before withdrawal from public life to live the rest of his life "close in prayer."
According to laws governing the transition, when papacy is vacant, administration is entrusted to the College of Cardinals, under the age-old principle that nothing extraordinary should be done. Conclave can begin before March 15, but this will depend on the cardinals, according to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.
Once conclave has started, a two-third majority is required for a valid election, and if after three days the votes do not come to a result, in subsequent rounds of voting only the two names which in the previous rounds had the highest number of votes will be considered.
Clergy sources told Xinhua that the next Bishop of Rome could be European considered that Benedict XVI during his papacy has advocated a return to faith in the old continent, where a once deep-rooted Catholic Church has been weakened by secularization.
African and Latin American countries have also emerged as other possible places of origin of the next Pope on account of the large presence of Catholic believers in the two continents.
Giacomo Galeazzi, a columnist of Vatican Insider run by La Stampa newspaper, quoted Brazilian Odilo Pedro Scherer and American Sean O' Malley among the candidates.
The largest circulation paper in Italy, Corriere della Sera, recalled Benedict XVI's sympathy for Filipino Luis Tagle, while Hungarian Peter Erdo, Canadian Marc Ouellet and Ghanaian Peter Turkson were also among the favorites according to La Repubblica newspaper.
Though media reports have focused attention on cardinal shortlists, local scholars pointed out that no effective previsions can be made.
"Conclaves have accustomed us to the unexpected. Every possibility is open, also considered that Benedict XVI's announcement of resignation came as surprise," Monsignor Mauro Cozzoli, a professor of moral theology at the Pontifical Lateran University, told Xinhua.
Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, a Bavarian-born conservative theologian, shocked the world when he announced his resignation Feb. 11. Other cases of a Pope stepping down date back more than five centuries, but Benedict XVI was the first to take the decision freely and justified by "old age" and "declining strengths."
There were doubts about the real reasons behind his renouncing office due to the recent rise of scandals within the church, but after initial bewilderment experts ruled out that what Benedict XVI has defined "divisions disfiguring the face of the Church" led him to the historic step.
More simply, Cozzoli noted, "papal ministry has become extremely burdensome in today's complex world." Realizing that his physical conditions were not adequate anymore to lead the Church, the 85-year-old Pontiff made the "innovative choice" to give way to a younger successor able to continue his work.
The professor also added that bishops generally withdraw from ministry at the age of 75, and quitting is envisaged as a possibility in the Code of Canon Law. "Ministry is not bound to individuals as the Pope is the Bishop of Rome leading a church whose head is Christ," he said.