Vatican City, February 18 - A crowd of as many as 40 cardinals gathered inside the Vatican early Monday for Lenten prayers and meditations led by a possible contender to be the next pope. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, has insisted that he wants to continue his work as a scholar and is not interested in higher office. But the record attendance in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace for the service led by Ravasi suggests other cardinals have begun the process of weighing the contenders to fill the job that will be left by Pope Benedict XVI. One week ago, Benedict announced that for health reasons he will resign on February 28. A conclave of cardinals is expected to choose his successor by mid-March.
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di Giovanni Pastore