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Sweet Sistine: Choose the next pope in the Vatican version of March Madness

As March Madness looms, a religious news website has created its own bracket for the papal conclave featuring not basketball teams but a "Sweet Sistine" of cardinals who could become pope.

The topical online contest was devised by the non-profit Religion News Service, part of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

gathered in Rome to see Pope Benedict depart the Vatican

They are expected to begin the process of choosing his successor at the Vatican from early next week.

By late Thursday more than 7,000 had 'played' in the first round of the poll, which pits New York's Archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan against Boston’s Cardinal Sean O'Malley and Canada’s Marc Ouellet against Mexico's Norberto Rivera.

First round voting ends at midnight ET on Friday. You can play the game, and see the early results, here.

To boost your chances, there’s insight on some of the contenders here.

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