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Cardinals Set Tuesday As Start to Elect Pope

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Cardinals have set Tuesday as the start date for the conclave to elect the next pope. The Vatican press office said the decision was taken during a vote Friday afternoon of the College of Cardinals. The AP's Mark Smith reports from Rome. (March 8)

SHOTLIST:

AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY

Vatican City / Rome - Various dates

1. File of Vatican City and Rome

2. File of Benedict XVI

VOICE-OVER SCRIPT:

CARDINALS HAVE SET TUESDAY AS THE START DATE FOR THE CONCLAVE TO ELECT THE NEXT POPE ...

IT IS A MILESTONE IN THIS UNUSUAL PAPAL TRANSITION ... EVEN WITH NO OBVIOUS FRONT-RUNNER, A SIGN THE CARDINALS HAVE A SENSE ABOUT WHO CAN LEAD THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ... REPLACING THE RETIRED BENEDICT XVI.

THE CONCLAVE DATE WAS SET ON FRIDAY DURING A VOTE BY THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS ... MEETING ALL WEEK TO DISCUSS THE CHURCH'S PROBLEMS ... AND THE QUALITIES A NEW POPE MUST POSSESS.

IN THE PAST 100 YEARS ... NO CONCLAVE HAS LASTED MORE THAN FIVE DAYS.

THE PAST WEEK OF DELIBERATIONS HAS EXPOSED SHARP DIVISIONS AMONG CARDINALS ... DISCUSSING PRESSING PROBLEMS FACING THE CHURCH, INCLUDING GOVERNANCE OF THE HOLY SEE ITSELF.

THE TUESDAY START IS SEEN AS A COMPROMISE BETWEEN CARDINALS WHO WANTED MORE TIME TO HASH OUT PRESSING ISSUES AND ITALIANS EAGER FOR AN EARLY VOTE. MEANTIME, THE PRESSURE IS ON TO ELECT A PONTIFF BY A WEEK FROM SUNDAY, THE LAST SUNDAY BEFORE THE START OF HOLY WEEK.

MARK SMITH, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, ROME

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