The Vatican says Roman Catholic cardinals will meet on Tuesday to start the conclave needed to elect a successor to Pope Benedict.
The conclave date was set during a meeting of the cardinals Friday in Vatican city, after five days of closed-door debate.
All 115 of the cardinals eligible to elect a new pope took part in Friday's meeting. They are all expected to vote during the conclave until one man receives at least a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes. Cardinals must be under age 80 to vote.
The conclave, an elaborate ritual bound by centuries-old tradition to elect a new pope, will be held in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican appears to be aiming to have a new pope in place by Easter on March 31.
Pope Benedict resigned last month after nearly eight years in office, becoming the first Roman Catholic Church leader to step down voluntarily in 600 years. He has pledged obedience to the next pope.
Vatican officials have been concerned that information discussed at this week's meetings may have been leaked. On Wednesday, the Vatican imposed a media blackout on all cardinals following Italian media reports suggesting some cardinals initiated the leaks.
Italian newspapers have speculated that the aim of the blackout was to silence American cardinals, who have been vocal about allegations of corruption and dysfunction within the Curia, the central administration of the Catholic church.
The cardinals gathered this week to discuss other questions facing the church. Among them was last year's "Vatileaks" scandal, in which confidential papal documents that shed light on power struggles inside top levels of the church were leaked to Italian journalists.
Also under discussion was the series of child sex abuse incidents by priests, which have shaken confidence in the church in recent years.