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Cardinals meet for 2nd day of pre-conclave meetings

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet arrives for a meeting, at the Vatican, March 5, 2013. AP/Andrew Medichini

Cardinals gathered in the Vatican for preliminary meetings before the start of the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI have sent a telegram to the former pope.

The message was delivered on Tuesday, after the morning session of the second day of meetings, said Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

Vatican Press Secretary Father Thomas Rosica gave a quick translation of the message at a news briefing following the cardinals’ morning meeting.

“His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Castel Gandolfo. The cardinal fathers gathered in the Vatican for their general congregations in light of the upcoming conclave send you united together a devoted greeting of expression of their renewed gratitude for your brilliant Petrine ministry and for the example that you gave them of a generous pastoral solicitude for the good of the Church and the world.

“Their gratitude wishes to represent the recognition of all of the Church of your untiring work in the vineyard of the Lord. The members of the College of Cardinals entrust to you their prayers for themselves and for all of the Church,” the message read.

Benedict ended his difficult eight-year reign on Thursday, pledging unconditional obedience to whoever succeeds him to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics at one of the most problematic periods in the Church’s 2,000-year history.

Conclaves traditionally begin 15 days after the seat of St. Peter, as the papal office is called, becomes vacant.

But that includes time for mourning and funeral ceremonies for a dead pope, so Benedict issued a decree allowing an earlier start.

Nothing is set yet, but the Vatican seems to be aiming for an election by mid-March so the new pope can be installed in office before Palm Sunday on March 24 and lead Holy Week services culminating in Easter the following  Sunday.