(By Christopher Livesay) Vatican City, March 6 - The college of cardinals is in "no rush" to set a date for the conclave to elect a successor to Benedict XVI, Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Wednesday. Lombardi said all the cardinal electors, including the final one from Vietnam who will arrive by Thursday, were aware of the need for 'an adequate, serious, in-depth and unhurried preparation' for the secret gathering in the Sistine Chapel. "So far it has not appeared opportune to put the conclave date to a vote," Lombardi added. Vatican watchers had thought March 11 likely for the start of the conclave but that now looks "optimistic", they said Wednesday. The new pope was expected to be elected before the weekend of March 16-17 but many now think Sunday March 17 could be the day. Cardinals are currently assembling in Rome at the 'general congregations', a series of pre-conclave meetings of cardinals at the Vatican, which entered their third day on Wednesday. The meetings enable the cardinals to get to know each other better, share ideas about what characteristics the next leader of the Catholic Church should have, and establish a date for the conclave to elect the successor of Benedict XVI, who stepped down last week. Over 140 cardinals are taking part in the congregations, but fewer, 115, will participate in the conclave because only those under 80 are eligible to vote. There had been speculation that the cardinals would want to move quickly in order to have a new pontiff installed before Palm Sunday, March 24, so he could preside over the Holy Week ceremonies that lead up to Easter. Lombardi said it was significant that the cardinals opted not to hold afternoon sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, after holding two sessions on Monday, as it suggests they intend to take their time. The spokesman, one of the non-cardinals present during the congregations, said he sensed that the cardinals wanted to 'understand how long is needed to properly prepare for such an important event without hurrying things in any way'. Benedict changed the rules for the conclave in his final days as pontiff to make it possible for it to be held before the 15-20 days after the end of the previous papacy, given that he had stepped down, not died, and there was no funeral to organise. Hong Kong bishop John Tong Hon, one of the last cardinal electors set to come to Rome for the conclave, arrived in the Italian capital early on Wednesday. The 115th cardinal, Jean Baptiste Pahm Minh Man of Vietnam, was due to arrive Thursday. During the general congregations, a number of cardinals had been open to interviews, especially those from the United States, who held two press conferences this week. But after cancelling a third press conference at the last minute Wednesday, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops announced they will no longer do interviews due to concerns of 'leaks'. "Concern was expressed in the general congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers," said spokeswoman Sister Mary Ann Walsh. "As a precaution, the cardinals have agreed not to do interviews". Cardinals Francis George of Chicago and Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, had been scheduled to speak Wednesday.