di Marcello Mento
Vatican City, March 4 - The general congregation of cardinals started at 09:30 Italian time (08:30 GMT) Monday, kicking off talks on the conclave to vote Benedict XVI's successor. Daily talks will be held by the College of Cardinals preceding a conclave in which a new pope will be chosen. On Friday, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals summoned cardinals for the first in a series of talks Monday morning ahead of the secret electoral gathering in the Sistine Chapel. The date for the conclave may not be set Monday, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Friday. Observers expect it to come around March 10-11, after Benedict issued a last-minute decree waiving the mandatory 15-day waiting period after the end of a papal reign. There are 115 cardinal-electors, more than half of whom were appointed by Benedict and the remaining by his predecessor John Paul II. The election process comes after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down after nearly eight years in office leading the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. He was the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.