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Transition at the Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI has announced he is resigning, an unprecedented act in modern times. The selection process to decide who will lead the Roman Catholic Church now begins.

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Father John R. Weiss of St. Mary of the Angels, an Opus Dei church, prays for a new Pope who is positive, communicates the Gospel message in a way that believers and non- can relate to, and finds ways to challenge individuals.

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(Manya Brachear / Chicago Tribune)

Chris Pett, President of Dignity Chicago, expresses hope to Turi that the new Pope leads the Catholic church, not by orthodoxy, but by calling on people to live Gospel values. This includes accepting of the LGBT community.

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(Los Angeles Times photo)

Black smoke rose Tuesday from the chimney over the Sistine Chapel, indicating that a new pope has not been selected.

Catholic cardinals, including Chicago’s Frances George, are now behind close doors in quiet deliberation to elect a new pope.

Raw footage of papal robes hanging on hangers (WGN TV).

Alexander Stummvoll, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Catholic Studies at DePaul University, talks about the papal frontrunners.

WGN’s Dina Bair is live in Rome! Mike McConnell spoke with her about the process of electing a new pope.

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ROME (CNN) —  The Catholic cardinals gathered in Rome voted Friday to begin the secret election, or conclave, to elect a new pope next Tuesday afternoon, the Vatican said.

The 115 cardinal-electors taking part in the conclave will enter the closed-door process after a morning Mass, the Vatican said. Only those younger than 80 are eligible to vote.

The cardinals voted Friday morning to accept the letters of explanation of two cardinal-electors who are eligible to vote for the next pope but will not attend the conclave: Keith O’Brien of Scotland and Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja of Indonesia.

Darmaatmadja cited health reasons, and O’Brien cited personal reasons.

O’Brien resigned in scandal last week after allegations that he made sexual advances toward young men studying to be priests. He apologized in a statement Sunday, saying, “There have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.”

Since Monday, the cardinals have been uniting for what are known as General Congregations, a series of meetings in which they discuss the issues facing the church.

These include how to tackle the issue of child sex abuse by priests and a scandal over leaks from the Vatican last year that revealed claims of corruption within the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.

The chimney used to send up the smoke signals that announce whether or not a new pope has been elected could be raised over the Sistine Chapel on Friday, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman.

The voting takes place inside the chapel, beneath the ornate ceiling painted by Michelangelo.

The building was closed to tourists Tuesday and will remain so for the foreseeable future, the Vatican said. Work is well under way to transform it for the conclave.

The cardinals have sworn an oath of secrecy. Nonetheless, the Vatican is taking no chances.

An electronic shield will be put up around the conclave to prevent the use of mobile phones and other devices that might allow communication with the outside world.

However, Lombardi denied a report in the Italian media that the cardinals will be searched as they go in and out of the conclave.

Among the things the cardinals have to do is draw lots for which rooms they get at the Casa Santa Marta, the hotel within the walls of Vatican City where they stay during the conclave.

The hotel also contains a suite where the newly elected pope will live for a few weeks before moving to the papal apartments.

The apartments were placed under seal after Benedict XVI left last week and must be renovated before the new pope can take up residence, the Vatican said.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (Sherwin Goo, for the Los Angeles Times)

Bill Leff gets an update from the Vatican City courtesy of  Tom Heneghan, religion editor for Reuters.  In this podcast, they discuss the questions surrounding Pope Benedict’s retirement, potential replacement candidates and the future of the Catholic Church.

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St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (Sherwin Goo, for the Los Angeles Times)

In his last public appearance as pope, Benedict XVI thanked the faithful for their friendship. “I am no longer the pope,” Benedict XVI said. “But I am still in the Church. I am just a pilgrim who is starting the last part of his pilgrimage on this earth.”

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