Roman Catholic cardinals will begin electing a new pope on 12 March, the Vatican has announced after 115 cardinals gathered for talks.
Pope Benedict XVI stepped down last month after nearly eight years in office, becoming the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.
The 85-year-old blamed his failing health for his inability to carry on.
Under the rules of the secret ballot, or conclave, cardinals will vote until one achieves a two-thirds majority.
Correspondents say no one candidate stands out as Benedict XVI's likely successor.