Catholic cardinals gathered at the Vatican for their last pre-conclave talks Monday, the day before they seal themselves into the Sistine Chapel to elect a successor to Pope Benedict.
The conclave is due to begin Tuesday and will involve 115 cardinal-electors. They are expected to vote until one man receives at least a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes. Cardinals must be under 80 to vote.
The centuries-old tradition of choosing the new leader of the world's Catholics is cloaked in secrecy, and no clear favorite has emerged to take the helm of the Church.
Some reports are speculating that Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola and Brazilian Pedro Odilo Scherer are top contenders. Others are pointing to Cardinal Timothy Dolon of New York and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston.
Over the past several days the Cardinals have been holding closed-door meetings in Rome to discuss the challenges that the next pope will face and vet possible candidates for the post.
Also under discussion are the child sex abuse scandals involving priests, and allegations of cover-ups by bishops, which have shaken confidence in the church.
Pope Benedict surprised the world last month, when after eight years in office he became the first Roman Catholic Church leader in 600 years to step down voluntarily.
The cardinals will officially enter the conclave at 5:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The first possible smoke sighting from the Sistine Chapel chimney should emerge around 7:00 p.m. Black smoke from the burned ballot papers means a pope has not been chosen -- white smoke means the new pontiff has been elected.
There will be no more than four votes per day.