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Papal conclave to begin Tuesday, Vatican says

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

The papal conclave to choose the next pope will begin on Tuesday, a Vatican spokesman says.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters that cardinals voted Friday afternoon for the Tuesday start date.

CityNews will be in Rome for the historic vote, so watch our special coverage all next week. Click here for our full coverage.

The cardinals have been holding closed-door pre-conclave meetings to ponder who among them could succeed Pope Benedict — who stepped down Feb. 28 — as leader of the 1.2 billion member Church at one of the most crisis-ridden periods in its history.

The Vatican has struggled to contain leaks from the meetings, highlighting a gap between the Catholic Church’s traditional secrecy and the 24/7 information age.

With its memory stretching back centuries, the Vatican bristles at any attempt to influence the papal vote, something that was once the prerogative of European Catholic powers who could veto candidates not to their liking.

But, this culture of secrecy proved fatal in the sexual abuse crises of the past decade as once-cowed victims came forward to denounce predator priests and lawsuits and official probes dug up Church documents proving bishops had covered up for them.