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RELIGION

Cardinals begin pre-conclave meetings amid scandal, resignation and problems of church

Cardinals from around the world have gathered inside the Vatican for their first round of meetings before the conclave to elect the next pope, amid scandals inside and out of the Vatican and the continued reverberations of Benedict XVI's decision to retire.

Cardinals were treated like rock stars as they entered the Vatican on Monday morning, with television crews swarming around the red-capped churchmen and their handlers pushing their way through the crowds.

The core agenda item is to set the date for the conclave and set in place procedures to prepare for it, including closing the Sistine Chapel to visitors and getting the Vatican hotel cleared out and de-bugged, lest anyone try to listen in on the secret conversations of the cardinals. But a date may not be agreed upon Monday.