In the politics of becoming pope, there's never been a race quite like this.
The church's problems enormous, the need for a powerful, unifying pope, never greater.
"We have to finish this, we have to get on with this. If we don't do this, it's over, blow the candles out," Monsignor Kevin Irwin, the Archdiocese of New York said.
The new pope will have to reinvigorate the church and bring its enormous bureaucracy, the curia, into the modern world.
The church does not just run on Hail Marys, you know, we gotta make it work in terms of personnel and money and being effective, and I think the question is how effective is the curia in a internet 24/7 world?
From the time a cardinal becomes a cardinal the race for pope is on.
They are judged on their intellectual, religious and spiritual heft, even their ability to communicate in Italian.
Politicking done, support secured in formal settings and often, in out of the way unlikely venues.
This is Venerina restaurant just round the corner from the Vatican. Cardinals come here in the ones and twos, they have lunch, dinner, sometimes a little wine. It's in places like this where much of the heavy lifting is done.
Venerina Labbate has served meals to connected and powerful Vatican insiders for 21 years.
"Dozens of cardinals have been here for the last couple of weeks, Venerina Labbate, the owner of Venerina Restaurant said, "when you're at the table you decide things."
Deciding important for many reasons, as one cardinal jokingly told her during his last meal here, when the conclave is under way, it's bread and water until a new pope is named.
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