Cathedral of St. John the Baptist holding special mass for conclave

Cardinals during their first meeting on March 4, a precursor to setting a date for the official conclave to replace retired Pope Benedict (MGN)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV/AP) - The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in downtown Charleston will hold a special mass to pray for Cardinals in Rome as they begin the Cardinal Conclave.

The mass will be held at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12.

The 115 Cardinal electors are set to begin conclave on Tuesday in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone will say a special Mass that day to pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the work of the Cardinals in their selection of a new pontiff.

Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Feb. 11, declaring that he was too infirm to continue the duties of the papacy.

The 85-year-old pope dropped the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators even though he had made clear previously that he would step down if he became too old or infirm to carry on.

Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."

Indeed, the move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, since the traditional nine days of mourning that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.

It will also allow Benedict to hold great sway over the choice of his successor, though he will not vote. He has already hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals the princes of the church who will elect the next pope to guarantee his conservative legacy and ensure an orthodox future for the church.