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TODAY   |  March 08, 2013

Cardinals will announce conclave date Friday

Now that the last cardinal has arrived in the Vatican from Vietnam, the 115 men are in a meeting to decide when the conclave will take place. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports and Vatican spokesman Greg Burke says the decision could be made today.

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>>> now let's get to the vatican . the very latest on the conclave waiting game. keir simmons is in rome for us again this morning. what's the latest?

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. day five. speculation is mounting that we may hear the start date of the papal selection , the conclave later tonight. you can see down to the right here, they arrived in the same entrance this morning, all 115 of them are here now. and, listen to this, a tweet from cardinal roger mahoney say ing setting of the conclave date is nearing. now they are preparing for the vote in the sistine chapel , and i'm told, even preparing to block cell phones and to search cardinals as they go in, another sign that the election may be nearing, the papal vestment has been moved to the vatican . three different for three different potential candidates. in 1268 , it took them three years to decide on who the next pope should be, so much so that they had to take the roof off the building and expose them to the elements to get them to hurry up.

>> in the modern era , i think we've had much shorter conclaves and fingers are crossed for that. senior communications adviser joins us now. mr. burke, good morning to you.

>> hi, savannah. good to be back.

>> good to see you. they haven't set a date yet for the conclave, but they will later today announce that date, is that correct?

>> it's expected later today . in the vatican , we hate to ever say for sure it's going to happen on this date except for things that we know about, such as easter and things like that. so, it would be expected by tonight. obviously, the journalists are very excited about it. the cardinals a little less so. they're going about their work. this is how conclaves work. they set the date. it's not the kind of thing where it's the first tuesday in november or anything like that, which we're used to. they are taking their time in doing it. we do expect that by tonight we will get that date.

>> and, greg, cardinal dolan of new york said in an interview on satellite radio that this conclave could go more quickly because they've had much more time to talk. does that sound like conventional wisdom in this case?

>> it does sound like conventional wisdom . i have to admit, i've been listening to cardinal dolan on the radio and he's very good, but he also admits he's a rookie in the conclaves. there's a long history of much longer conclaves. as savannah pointed out, the recent ones have been quicker. once they've done their work in these general congregations, have a lot of chance to talk and talk outside as well in the afternoons, of course. even some afternoons they meet, some they haven't been meeting. they do have that informal time and can start shaping things up there. when they get into the sistine then it's just down to voting. i think he's probably right about that. at least it's conventional wisdom without surprises, it shouldn't go on too long.

>> vatican senior communications adviser, greg