Cardinals met at the Vatican on Monday to discuss who will be the next leader of the Catholic Church.
The men will participate in general congregations which are closed-door meetings where they will decide when to start a conclave to choose a new pope.
The 150 cardinals are expected to hold one or two meetings a day. The preliminary meetings will give cardinals the chance to size up potential candidates by watching them closely in the debates.
No front-runner stands out but leading candidates include Peter Turkson of Ghana, Leonardo Sandri of Argentina, Austrian Christoph Schoenborn, Brazil's Odilo Scherer, Canadian Marc Ouellet and Angelo Scola, from Italy.
The Vatican says it hopes to have a new pope elected by next week.
Last month Pope Benedict announced that he was stepping down. He's the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.