By Mark Abrams

VATICAN CITY (CBS) — The cardinals of the Catholic Church have concluded their final meetings and are now preparing to head into the conclave on Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel.

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The cardinals had their last closed-door meetings this morning and then recessed to begin moving into the special hotel behind the Sistine Chapel where they will stay when not engaged in deliberations.

They’ll enter the conclave tomorrow, following a morning mass in St. Peter’s Basilica (see previous story).

The Vatican’s spokesman, Monsignor Thomas Rosica, provided a timetable of when the world will see the new pope once he’s elected.  From the time we see the white smoke until he finally appears on the loggia balcony above the basilica door, Rosica says, it could be 55 minutes to an hour.

And Rosica notes that in 2005, the time lag was a bit less: “From the time we saw the white smoke until the time the Holy Father appeared on the balcony, 45 minutes passed,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

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But now, he adds, the new pope — after he dresses himself in the traditional white papal vestments — will have time to pray by himself in a special chapel (the Pauline Chapel) before going out to greet the world.

The cardinal deacon’s announcement of a pope will come about 40-45 minutes after the first white smoke, according to Rosica.

Meanwhile, there is great anticipation and widespread speculation on just who might go in a cardinal and come out a pope.  Will it be an Italian? Will someone from Latin America emerge? Could it even be an American?

Ultimately, it will be the 115 men who enter the Sistine Chapel -– and not the media or the “sources” -– who will decide.

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