ROME, March 8 (Xinhua) -- The secret papal election process, or conclave, to elect the next pope after Benedict XVI's resignation will kick off on Tuesday, a statement from the Vatican press office said on Friday.
One hundred and fifty three cardinals voted to establish the date during the Friday's congregation, including all the 115 cardinal electors who will be participating in the conclave, as those under 80 are eligible to vote.
Two cardinals with a right to participate in the conclave have declined to present themselves. Indonesian archbishop emeritus of Jakarta, Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja, was too ill to attend, while Cardinal Keith O'Brien, archbishop emeritus of St. Andrew's and Edinburgh, cited personal reasons for his decision.
Benedict XVI changed the rules for the conclave in his final days as pontiff to make it possible for it to be held before the 15-20 days after the end of the previous papacy, given that he had stepped down and not died.
The next pope will have to win the votes of at least 77 of the 115 cardinals taking part in the upcoming conclave, the Vatican press office director Federico Lombardi said.
Benedict XVI, or pope emeritus, resigned at the age of 85 after announcing on Feb. 11 that he no longer had the mental and physical strengths to continue his office.
Work on preparing the Sistine Chapel for the conclave was underway to ensure secrecy and the installation of the chimney stack through which the world will come to know when the new pontiff has been elected, local reports said.