GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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March 11, 2013

Cardinals count down to conclave with final talks

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinals gathered for their final day of talks Monday before the conclave to elect the next pope, amid debate over whether the Catholic Church needs more of a manager pope to clean up the Vatican or a pastoral pope who can inspire the faithful at a time of crisis.

There were indications that plenty of questions remained about the state of the church and the best man to lead it heading into Tuesday's conclave: Not all the cardinals who wanted to speak were able to Monday and the cardinals were forced to take a vote about continuing the discussion into the afternoon.

In the end, a majority of cardinals chose to cut short the formal discussion, and the cardinals who did speak shortened their comments, according to the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

One of the main presentations came from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican No. 2 who heads the commission of cardinals overseeing the scandal-marred Vatican bank. He outlined the bank's activities and the Holy See's efforts to clean up its reputation in international financial circles, Lombardi said.

The Holy See's finances, and particularly the work of the Vatican bank have been under the spotlight during these pre-conclave meetings as cardinals seek to investigate allegations of corruption in the Vatican administration and get to the bottom of the bank's long history of scandal and secrecy.

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, Canada, acknowledged the importance of the task at hand, telling reporters as he arrived Monday: "Yes, tomorrow is a very important day in the history of the church."

There's no clear front-runner for a job most cardinals say they would never want, but a handful of names are circulating as top candidates to lead the 1.2 billion-strong church at a critical time in its history.

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