The conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI has started, the Vatican has announced.

"The eighth General Congregation of the College of Cardinals has decided that the Conclave for the election of the Pope will begin on Tuesday, 12 March 2013," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted the statement, issued on Friday, RiaNovosti informs.

All 115 cardinals taking part in the conclave have arrived in the Vatican to elect a new pope. The last elector, Vietnam’s Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, arrived on Thursday, signaling that the voting for the new leader will start soon.

Under church rules, the winning candidate must get a two-thirds majority, or 77 votes.

Pope Benedict, who became the 265th Pope in 2005 following his predecessor John Paul II’s death, announced his resignation due to old age and failing health on February 11.

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