In the conclave to elect Pope Benedict's successor, 11 of the 117 cardinals eligible to vote in the closed-room meeting will be Americans.

The Diocese of Rome will be "sede vacante" or vacant at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, when Pope Benedict's resignation goes into effect. On that day, 117 cardinals will be eligible to elect the successor to the Holy See. The conclave must begin within 20 days of his date of resignation.

All cardinals below the age of 80 come to Rome to participate in the conclave. Most of these cardinal-electors – 67 of the 117 – have been appointed by Pope Benedict himself.

Once the Diocese of Rome is vacant, nearly all offices of the Roman Curia, the administrative offices governing the Church, are suspended, and will have to be reconfirmed by the next pontiff. One of the few that continues, because of its urgent nature dealing with issues of absolution and indulgences, is the Apostolic Penitentiary.

Under rules re-established by Pope Benedict in 2007, the conclave must achieve a two-thirds majority to elect the Bishop of Rome.

The 11 Americans who will partake in the conclave include Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, the archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia. He is 77, and was ordained a priest for the Los Angeles archdiocese in 1961, and served in the Roman Curia and as archbishop of Saint Louis before his appointment to Philadelphia in 2003. That year he was elevated to cardinal, and then retired in 2011.

Ordained in Los Angeles alongside Cardinal Rigali in 1961, Cardinal William J. Levada is prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He became an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 1983, and is 76. He then served as archbishop in Portland and San Francisco before his appointment in the Roman Curia. He was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope Benedict, who had held the post under Blessed John Paul II. Cardinal Levada was succeeded by Archbishop Gerhard L. Müller, who has yet to be named a cardinal.

Cardinal Francis E. George is the Archbishop of Chicago, and has served there since 1997. He is 76 and a religious, having been ordained for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1963. He served as bishop of Yakima and of Portland in Oregon before being appointed to Chicago. He was made a cardinal in 1998. He has already fought off two diagnoses of cancer.

Another religious among the cardinal-electors is Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, a Capuchin. He serves as Archbishop of Boston and is 68. He was ordained a priest in 1970. He was made coadjutor bishop of Saint Thomas, and then was bishop in Fall River and Palm Beach prior to his move to Boston in 2003. He was elevated to cardinal in 2006.

The Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien. He is 73, and was ordained for the New York archdiocese in 1965. He was rector of the North American College in Rome before he became an auxiliary for the Archdiocese of New York in 1996. He also served at the U.S. military archdiocese and in Baltimore prior to his current assignment. He was made a cardinal last year, shortly after his appointment as pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan followed Cardinal O'Brien as rector of the North American College, and is Archbishop of New York. He is 63, and in 1976 was ordained for the Saint Louis archdiocese. He was consecrated as auxiliary bishop of Saint Louis in 2001, then appointed archbishop of Milwaukee in 2002. He was made archbishop of New York in 2009, and elevated to cardinal in 2012.

The Archbishop of Washington, D.C. is Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, who is 72. He was ordained a priest of Pittsburgh in 1966 and was consecrated as auxiliary bishop of Seattle in 1985. He later served as bishop of his home diocese before being appointed to Washington in 2006. He has been a cardinal since 2010.

Also ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh is Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo who is now Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. He is 63 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1977. He was later bishop of Sioux City. He became coadjutor bishop of Galveston-Houston in 2004, and its head in 2006. The following year he was appointed a cardinal.

Cardinal James M. Harvey is Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls. He too is 63, and was ordained for the Milwaukee archdiocese in 1975. In 1998 he became prefect of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, and was appointed titular bishop of Memphis in 1998. He is among the newest group of cardinals, having been elevated on Nov. 24.

One of the Americans already in Rome is Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the supreme tribunal of the Church. He is 64, and was ordained for the Diocese of La Crosse in 1975. He became bishop there in 1995, and was then archbishop of Saint Louis before his present post began in 2008. He was named a cardinal in 2010.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony is the archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, and is 76. He was ordained a priest for Fresno in 1962, and became an auxiliary bishop there in 1975. He subsequently served as bishop of Stockton and then of Los Angeles before his retirement in 2011. He was made a cardinal in 1991. Just two weeks ago he was stripped of his duties in Los Angeles by the present bishop there, Bishop José H. Gomez for his role in covering up clergy sex abuse, though he remains a cardinal-elector.