Vatican City, March 4 - Catholic cardinals on Monday finished their first day of pre-conclave meetings. The meetings, called "general congregations", are useful to enable the clergymen to share ideas about what characteristics the next leader of the Catholic Church should have and establish a date for the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor. Over 140 cardinals are taking part on the congregations, two of which were held on Monday, but only those under 80 will take part in the conclave. Benedict, 85, stepped down as pontiff last week saying he did not have the mental and physical strength to continue in a position that is usually for life. Many of the cardinals left the Vatican's Paul VI hall after the second of Monday's congregations, nodding to each other and several said: "prayer is necessary, let's pray". Only one congregation session will take place on Tuesday, in the morning.
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di Sebastiano Caspanello