Cardinals head to conclave to elect pope
VATICAN CITY - Roman Catholic cardinals prayed on Tuesday for divine help in choosing a new pope, hours before they go into a conclave to elect a pontiff who will face one of the most difficult periods in the Church's history.
The red-hatted cardinals filed into St. Peter's Basilica as choirs sang at a solemn Mass that traditionally precedes the secret conclave, which could last for several days.
Italian Angelo Sodano, dean of the cardinals, called for unity in the Church, which has been riven with intrigue and scandal, and urged everyone to work with the next pope.
"My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart," Sodano said in his homily, receiving warm applause when he thanked "the beloved and venerable" Benedict XVI.