BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: On April 18, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church begin their conclave to elect a successor to John Paul II. Kim Lawton is in Rome.
KIM LAWTON: It's been a week of continued mourning for John Paul II and of intense speculation about his successor. Underneath St. Peter's Basilica, the grotto containing John Paul's grave was open to the public. Many of the pilgrims said they were praying not only for the late pope but to him, thinking him a saint in spirit, even if not -- or not yet -- beatified.
Meanwhile, the Sistine Chapel was made ready for the cardinals who will gather there to elect John Paul's successor. All this week of mourning, the cardinals prayed for guidance and talked to each other, while outsiders took pictures of those they considered most likely to be chosen.
There was also controversy. One of the cardinals selected by the Vatican to lead a special mass was the former Archbishop of Boston, Bernard Law, who had become a symbol in the U.S. of Church cover-up of priestly sex abuse. Law is now head priest at a major basilica in Rome. It's traditional for people in those positions to lead the memorial masses, but representatives for abuse victims still strongly protested.
ABERNETHY: Kim, what are people there saying about the kind of conclave they expect this one to be?
LAWTON: This appears to be one of the most wide-open conclaves that we've had in recent history. Previous conclaves have had one dominant issue that seems to take over the conversations of the cardinals, or one particular front-runner, and that's not the case this time around. There are a host of issues these cardinals are looking at, but there is not one particular thing that is at the forefront, and therefore, that means that the field of candidates seems to be wide open and very broad.
ABERNETHY: And what are the major considerations on their minds, as far as you know?
LAWTON: Well, the cardinals are talking about the main challenges they see facing the Church in the coming years, and those include a wide variety of issues. Certainly the shortage of priests is something strongly on their minds, but so is poverty in different places around the world; the growth of the Church in the Third World. They're talking about issues of authority. Should there be more authority, more control at the Vatican, or at the local level by the local bishops and the local dioceses? So all of those kinds of issues are things that they're considering as they think and talk about who might be the best next pope. I'm sure a lot of Americans are wondering to what extent issues like abortion and birth control, some of those more hot-button issues, are playing into it. But those issues aren't really playing into things at all.