Monday marks the start of the process of selecting a new Pope, as the College of Cardinals meet formally for the first time to choose a date for the conclave.
"I hope the cardinals are going into the first of these general congregations with an open mind and an open spirit and frankly, a commitment to really candid conversation," NBC Vatican Analyst George Weigel told The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd. "There are a lot of problems that need to be addressed (and) a lot of possibilities that need to be explored."
Once the conclave begins, cardinals will enter the Sistine Chapel to begin a long-standing, secretive process that could stretch out over several days. If the cardinals are to meet their goal of choosing a new Pope in time for Holy Week, which begins March 24th, the chosen candidate would need to be installed by the Sunday before, March 17th.
Cardinals are not allowed any contact with the outside world, and are encouraged to pray and meditate on their choice of who is best equipped to lead the Catholic Church.
"What's important is: Have we got someone here who's faith is so transparent that his very personality communicates it to others?" says Weigel, author of "Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church."
"That's the kind of pastoral leader, the kind of missionary Pope I think the church is looking for right now and, I hope, a majority of the cardinals are looking for right now," Weigel said.