A cardinal from Chile who will be participating in the general meetings leading up to the conclave said that the next Pope will most likely be relatively young.

"One of the external characteristics that the Church needs is for a person not very advanced in age to be chosen and this is very probable," said Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, former archbishop of Santiago.

The 80-year-old cardinal, who has taken part in previous conclaves, arrived yesterday in Rome to participate in the general meetings of the College of Cardinals.

Although his age prohibits him from voting, he will meet with other cardinals to discuss possible papal candidates and to determine the exact date of the conclave.

"There is a huge difference between a conclave and choosing a country's prime minister or a president," the cardinal told CNA on Feb. 27 at the Vatican.

"There are always electoral pacts, parties and candidates involved, but not in this process."

Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa clarified that cardinals of a certain continent or congregation do not form alliances to choose someone.

"The Apostolic Constitution that governs the conclave says that each one is before God, without pact, without compromising anyone and that is the interesting part," he said.

"When the meetings begin we will speak about the Church's challenges, the grace that the Holy Spirit has given them and problems that they have."

He noted that "that many cardinals will get to know each other better," and "some will think, 'well that's nice what that cardinal has to say, but he's not quite ready to be a Pope.'"

After many of 115 cardinals' names are eliminated, "only a few will remain," he remarked, and "after that they will consult with people who know that cardinal better."

"You can probably find on internet what his last pastoral letter was, decisions he has taken, the orientation he has had, or what he has done in a Roman dicastery or in his diocese," Cardinal Errázuriz Ossa said.

"Then little by little three or four names will be left that match all the conditions."

He added that in the first or second voting there will be a "dispersion of votes" but a list of names that are more trusted to be Pope Benedict's successor will start to take shape.

"That is how the Holy Spirit will have to work, open hearts and open the intelligence until, little by little, those two thirds majority are reached," he said.

"The Church doesn't want to chose a head of a group of people but one Pope who will be himself the factor of communion with an openness and understanding for all his brothers and the entire Church."