Beck also wondered whether, because Benedict is still alive -- he'll be the first living ex-pope in nearly 600 years -- the cardinal electors' choices will be influenced by a desire to respect Benedict. That is to say, whether they'll select someone aligned with Benedict theologically because they don't want to disrespect the living ex-pontiff.
"It's a question I would have, because we haven't had this obviously in 600 years," Beck said.
[Updated at 9:49 a.m. ET]
There's a "party atmosphere" at Italy's Castel Gandolfo, the seaside papal resort town where, starting tonight, Benedict will be in seclusion until his successor is chosen, CNN's Becky Anderson reports.
About 10,000 people have gathered in the village square, awaiting his arrival set for this evening, according to Journalist Barbie Nadeau.
A banner with solver balloons reads, "Thank you Benedict -- we are with you."
Area residents, many of whom have worked at the papal retreat in the town, have gathered to see what is expected to be Benedict's last public appearance as pope. Benedict is expected to appear on a balcony of the papal retreat Thursday evening, shortly before the moment he resigns. In anticipation of his appearance, a banner has just been unfurled below the balcony.
We're about an hour away from the moment that Benedict will leave the Vatican and eventually embark on a helicopter trip to Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles southeast of the Vatican.
[Updated at 8:32 a.m. ET]
We've just gotten a clarification on the number of cardinals eligible to vote for the next pontiff: 115, says Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
Two of them might be too sick to attend the conclave, though some arrangements may be made to enable them to vote, Lombardi said.
He did not name the two cardinals. He also didn't say for sure that they wouldn't attend the conclave, and he didn't describe how they might be allowed to vote if they don't attend.
Lombardi's comments came during a Vatican press briefing about Benedict's last day as pope and the coming election of a new pontiff has ended. That briefing has just ended.
[Updated at 8:22 a.m. ET]
Regarding the Fisherman's Ring, a symbol of office that is due to be destroyed after Benedict resigns tonight, a Vatican spokesman says Benedict has the right to wear it until 8 p.m. Rome time.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi says he does not know whether the pope will be wearing it on his helicopter ride to Castel Gandolfo -- the retreat where Benedict will be staying until a successor is chosen -- or whether he'll leave it at Vatican's papal apartments.
[Updated at 8:15 a.m. ET]
A media briefing at the Vatican continues, and a Vatican spokesman has recently finished talking about when Benedict will learn the identity of his successor. The answer: The same time the rest of the world finds out.
Benedict will not get any advance notice of who his successor will be when he is elected during a conclave that's due to begin in March, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Rosica says.
Starting tonight, Benedict is expected stay at a seaside papal retreat, Castel Gandolfo, until a successor is named. Then, with a title of pope emeritus, he will retire to a former gardener's house at the Vatican to lead a life of prayer, likely removed entirely from public life.
Read this article for more information on what Benedict's retirement is expected to be like.
[Updated at 8:04 a.m. ET]
Ah, conclave secrecy. What kind of precautions will the Vatican take to shield cardinal electors from the temptation of leaking information to the public when they gather to elect the next pope in March? That's one of the topics that Vatican spokesmen are addressing now in a news conference on Benedict's last day as pope.
As we noted earlier in this post, cardinal electors will be forbidden to communicate with the outside world during the conclave. A few minutes ago, Vatican spokesmen declined to say whether BlackBerrys, iPhones and laptops would be taken away from cardinals when they are in the conclave.
There is no internet access inside Santa Marta, where the cardinals will stay during the conclave, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.