Pope election: Final talks before Vatican lockdown

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CATHOLIC cardinals gathered at the Vatican yesterday for their final day of talks before the conclave to elect the next pope.

They met amid debate over whether the Church needs a manager pope to clean up the Vatican or a pastoral pope who can inspire the faithful.

Several cardinals were signed up to speak at the morning session, an indication that they still have plenty to discuss before gathering today in the Sistine Chapel for the first vote.

There is no clear front-runner, but a handful of names are circulating as top candidates to lead the 1.2 billion-strong Church at a critical time.

The first puffs of smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney should emerge this evening. Black smoke means no pope, white smoke that the 266th pope has been chosen.