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Cardinals head to conclave to elect pope for troubled Church

The red curtain on the central balcony, called the Loggia of the Blessings of Saint Peter's Basilica, where the new pope will appear after being elected in the conclave is seen at the Vatican Roman Catholic cardinals prayed for divine help on Tuesday, hours before a conclave to elect a new pope to tackle the daunting problems facing the Church at one of the most difficult periods in its history. The cardinals, including the 115 aged under 80 who will vote for the next pope, filed into St. Peter's Basilica as choirs sang at the ritual solemn Mass that precedes a conclave. They prayed that God would inspire them to choose the right man to replace Pope Benedict, who abdicated abruptly last month saying he was not strong enough to confront the woes of a Church whose 1.2 billion members look to Rome for leadership. The Mass was the last event for the cardinals as a group before they enter the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday afternoon and make their choice for the next pontiff be

Roman Church thinks Europe slipping from its hands

People gather at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican ahead of the cardinals' conclave this week. ( March 10 , 2013 ) VATICAN CITY — The timing said it all. A smiling Pope Benedict XVI had just wrapped up an official visit to Portugal in May 2010, during which he praised Catholic organizations striving to protect families based on "the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman." But barely 72 hours after the pontiff flew home, the president of Portugal declared that he would sign a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. With Spain having granted such rights five years earlier, the move turned the entire Iberian Peninsula, historically a Catholic stronghold, into an

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