Updated 03/04/2013 03:20 PM
Cardinals begin meetings for papal conclave date
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VATICAN CITY -- On Monday morning, American cardinals and others from around the world headed into their first official meeting to discuss the when and how of electing their next leader. New York's Timothy Dolan said he's hoping for a relatively quick process.
"We need to get a new pope, and we want to get back home and do our work," said Cardinal Dolan.
And spokesmen for the US contingent told the press during a midday break many cardinals want the next pope to be a guardian for victims of sexual abuse by clergy - after cases and prosecutions in the US and other countries left the Church with what one cardinal from Chicago called a "wound to the body of the Church." A wound the next pope will have to act decisively to heal.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said, "He obviously has to accept the universal code of the Church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who has ever abused a minor child and therefore may not remain in public ministry in the Church. So that has to be accepted, and I think that will not be a problem."
This candor before the press on the nature but not the detail of a cardinals' meeting is new.
In the past, a gag order usually came with any gathering of cardinals. But experts say a flurry of issues have put the Church in crisis mode. And sexual misconduct is just one of them.
National Catholic Reporter Editor Dennis Coday said, "By now everyone's heard of the Vatileaks case and the butler and the allegations of corruption and blackmail that are there. Those kinds of things have to be looked at. But part of that also is just how the Vatican runs, with allegations it's being run inefficiently and it's losing money."
As for when the conclave to elect a new pope will start, a Vatican spokesman said this first meeting produced no consensus.
"We have no information as to the date of the conclave."
And former Pope Benedict's ring and seal have not yet been destroyed, as is the custom. The cardinals' next meeting is Tuesday morning.