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Cardinals converge in Rome

Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, leaves the church after presiding over mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in downtown Toronto, Ont. on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013. After the mass, Cardinal Collins flew to Rome to participate in the final papal audience of Pope Benedict XVI and begin preparations for the upcoming conclave, including meetings with the Holy Father and College of Cardinals.

Credits: ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI AGENCY

JENNY YUEN | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- It's a holy decision not to be taken lightly.

Thomas Cardinal Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, will be in Rome on Monday for the upcoming papal conclave as Pope Benedict XVI prepares for his official resignation Thursday.

"The right choice is the one where the Holy Spirit will guide us to make," Collins told media after a packed mass at St. Michael's Cathedral on Sunday.

"I remember in 1978, I was studying in Rome and I left in June and there were two conclaves later that year. You hear the excitement in the streets. I'll be inside and I'll know who the Pope is before others do, but it will be amazing."

Pope Benedict XVI's shocking resignation Feb. 11 could result in he selection of the Catholic church's first non-European leader in 1,500 years. His potential successors include 68-year-old Canadian Marc Cardinal Ouellet.

When asked what the selection of a Canadian pope would to Canada, Collins matter-of-factly said the position is about much more than the chosen person's citizenship.

"We look at Poland when Pope Jean-Paul became pope ... there was a lot of cheering in the country," he said. "Whatever country the Pope is from will probably be very happy about it."

Many of the some-116 cardinals will gather in Rome on Wednesday and meet with the Pope on Thursday. On Friday, the cardinals will begin preparing for the conclave.

It's still not clear when the conclave will begin, Collins added, but the rules of the Vatican state it's usually 15 days after the seat becomes vacant.

Meanwhile, the Chamberlain Cardinal -- Italian Tarcisio Bertone -- will temporarily replace Pope Benedict XVI until a new pontiff is elected.

Despite Collins refusal to "cast in stone" the traits essential in the new pope, he said the person will have to be the best candidate to deal with current challenges the facing the church.

"When the seat is vacant at 8 p.m. Thursday night, I'll be listening to the other cardinals and they will be speaking of what will be needed in their area," Collins said.

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