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TODAY   |  March 01, 2013

The frontrunners in new pope search

Now that Benedict XVI has officially stepped down from his reign as pope, the speculation about who will be next begins. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports on some of the frontrunners, including Cardinal Scola of Milan and Cardinal Turkson of Ghana.

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>>> now to the vatican . the catholic church finds its, temporarily, without a leader following that send-off of pope benedict xvi . now the hard work of finding his successor can begin. keir simmons is in st. peter's square. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. skies across rome have been blue as pope benedict said good-bye. the vatican behind me is without a pontiff and as you can see, the skies are gray as the task begins for choosing a new leader of the catholic church . the bells of st. peter's bass il ilica. steeped in tradition and who understands this changing world, perhaps even from another part of the world. cardinal o'malley from boston, expressing his hopes.

>> certainly in today's world, the ability to communicate the faith is important. our people are anxious to have someone who will be able to touch the hearts, particularly, of our young people .

>> reporter: whispered something yesterday that made the pope laugh. at 55, he is considered young. ironically, cardinal scoloof milan. next, cardinal batone. canadian cardinal marc ouelette . cardinal dolan of new york is 0-1.

>> the names that are being floated, the most prominent names are still europeans. they are the majority voting bloc in the conclave.

>> reporter: alliances are being made and broken. the election called the conclave could take time, according to the man who speaks for the vatican .

>> the cardinals do not have to move quickly.

>> reporter: for now, who will ultimately emerge as pontiff is as secretive as the process as the ancient ritual begins to choose a new pope. we're just learning that the cardinals will meet 9:30 monday morning when they're expected to decide wlet conclave, the election process will start. the new pope is likely to be chosen from amongst them. it doesn't have to be that way. it's not likely to be you or me but in principle, any baptized male can be elevated to be the new pope.

>> so i'm out, keir. just to be clear on that, all right? keir simmons in rome this morning. thank you very much.