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Updated at 8:37 a.m. Eastern
The Vatican said Friday that cardinals gathered in Rome to elect a new pope would likely set the start date for the actual election process, known as the papal conclave, later Friday evening.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the conclave would likely begin early next week -- Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday -- but would not be convened over the weekend. Lombardi told journalists they should be notified of the date via email after 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. Eastern)
It has been widely reported that divisions among the cardinals over how much time they need to deliberate the various challenges facing the Catholic Church have delayed the pre-conclave meetings.
Reporter Marco Tosatti, who writes for the Italian newspaper La Stampa, told CBSNews.com the Church's Rome-based bureaucracy, the "Curia," probably preferred an earlier date, hoping to quickly "orient" the prelates from more distant nations "towards a chosen candidate."
He said the cardinals who came from powerful Bishops' conferences -- such as those from the United States, for instance -- likely preferred to delay the beginning of the conclave, to grant them more time "to campaign" their colleagues who came from more remote locations, countries in Latin America and Africa, for instance.
Allen Pizzey reports that a cardinal who spoke Friday to CBS News on background said all the prelates had agreed that the Church needs, "a fresh start," adding that he and his colleagues were keen to ensure the new pope has, "a very strong team" behind him, alluding to the importance of deciding on not only a new pontiff, but a new Vatican Secretary of State -- the second-highest ranking Church official -- and other top posts.
The so-called "general congregations" have been underway for four days, and while many European cardinals have expressed an interest in concluding the talks and beginning the conclave, some American and other prelates have suggested there should be no rush. Some have stressed the desire to take time and carefully consider the scandals facing the Vatican and how the new Church leadership should address them.
French Cardinal Vingt Trois told CBS News as he emerged from the first round of discussions Friday morning that no decision had yet been made on a date, as "everybody wants to speak."
"Hopefully it will be a short conclave and start very soon," Germany's Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes was quoted Wednesday as telling a German newspaper. "I would compare it with a visit to the dentist -- you want to get everything over with quickly."
Contrary to that sentiment, South Africa's Cardinal Wilfred Napier told CBS News earlier this week that the pre-conclave talks couldn't be rushed because, after all, the next pope was in the room.
"When we do reach the point of selecting a pope, we will have a much fuller idea of what kind of challenges he is going to have to lead the church into," Napier said, adding that he doesn't think anyone is feeling rushed to make a decision.
The Italian press has painted the division as a schism between the largely European Vatican-based cardinals and those from the Americas, Asia and Africa, who have been more interested in airing their concerns over alleged Church corruption and mismanagement in the pre-conclave talks.
The last cardinal to show up for the general congregations was Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Vietnam, who arrived late Thursday.
Once the conclave begins, the talking is over. The ritual election process allows for virtually no banter or debate as the prelates repeatedly cast their secret, handwritten ballots until a pope is elected with at least a 77-vote majority from the available 115 cardinal electors.