As conclave opens, Curia reform a dominant theme

ROME, ITALY - MARCH 12: American Cardinals walk to a bus to take them from the North American College to St. Peterâ
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(CBS News) The 115 voting cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church will, in all probability, cast their first ballots in Sistine Chapel Tuesday.

There are elections -- and then there are papal elections. Unlike last time, going in to this conclave, there is no clear frontrunner, and the potential voting alliances cross geographic and theological divides. Truly, this time, anything could happen.

It was like a team pep-rally before the big game on Tuesday, the American cardinals leaving the college where they've been staying to the applause of the priests and seminarians there.

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Among the cardinals, a few find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings for an American -- being discussed as possible choices for Pope. Boston's Sean O'Malley, whose quiet pastoral manner and experience in Latin America has him on many speculative lists. And New York's Timothy Dolan, whose enthusiasm has won friends.

Cardinals aren't supposed to campaign like politicians, but some might find see a resemblance.

After more than a week of talking, it's finally time to start voting.

The cardinals go into this conclave with the most open field for pope anyone can remember. There seem to be two dominant voting blocs -- those who want to reform the way the church runs itself, and those who want to defend the Roman Curia -- as the administration is called -- which is blamed for the many of the church's problems. Oddly, an Italian -- Cardinal Angelo Scola -- is the champion of the reformist camp and is supported by many non-Italian cardinals. And a Brazilian, Cardinal Odilo Scherer, is a traditionalist and supported by the largely Italian Curia faction.

But neither is thought to have enough votes to break through to the required two-thirds majority in the early balloting. And there are a lot of people who could slip through the middle as votes shift. It's happened before.

The cardinals begin day one of the conclave with a mass before they enter the Sistine Chapel and go into their secret deliberations. Ecclesiastical splendor proceeding papal politics, the mechanism to select the world's only and last elected monarchy is underway.

The magic number to win the papal election is 77 -- two-thirds of the 115 voting cardinals. How long will it take? The cardinals are expected to vote once today and then four times a day until somebody wins -- whenever that is.

For Mark Phillips' full report, watch the video in the player above.

But why is the conclave kept secret?

On "CBS This Morning," Rev. Thomas Rosica, deputy Vatican spokesperson, discussed what it's like inside the cardinals' conclave. Watch his video below for his full discussion.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, deputy Vatican spokesperson, said on "CBS This Morning," "It's intriguing. We're one of the last institutions -- we try our best to maintain [secrecy], we've had some difficulties lately. But the secrecy is a great sign of respect. Because first of all, the secrecy makes sure that what is happening there is between the cardinal and almighty God. Number two, it's a respect for persons. It's a respect for people. So you have people announcing already the voting that's taking place. It hasn't even started yet. But this is the last institution that tries its best to preserve this."