Nightly News   |  March 08, 2013

Conclave to begin Tuesday

The cardinals will fill out ballots in the Sistine Chapel until all 77 ballots – two-thirds plus one of the cardinal electors – reach a consensus. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> it's been just over a week since pope benedict abdicated, took that dramatic helicopter fight out of the vatican to his temporary new home. today we learned the cardinals will lock themselves in the sistine chapel to pick his replacement and when. nbc's anne thompson with us once again tonight from the vatican with that news and what happens next. anne, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. the race to 77 begins tuesday afternoon. 77, because that's the number of votes a candidate needs to become the next pope. that's a two-thirds plus one majority of all the cardinal electors . now, before the cardinals begin filling out their ballots, they will celebrate mass here at st. peters basilica tuesday, and then they will process into the sistine chapel where they will sit in two rows on each side of the chapel and fill out their ballots. if no one gets to that 77 vote mark on the first ballot, then every day that follows, the cardinals will vote twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. they will vote for three days, and then they will get a day off, a day of prayer , and then they will resume voting. all of this is going to happen as the cardinals are shut off from the rest of the world . no tv, no radio, no newspapers, no cell phones, no blackberries, no computers, nothing. now, benedict, pope emeritus, he was elected on the fourth ballot after a day-and-a-half in 2005 , but given the fact there's no front-runner, nobody expects it will go that quickly this time. brian?

>> anne thompson at the vatican