VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2005 ( The cardinal electors arrived today to the Vatican guesthouse Domus Sanctae Marthae, to prepare for the conclave that begins Monday afternoon.

In preparation for the conclave to pick a new pope, the cardinals have held 12 general congregations, in which cardinal electors and non-electors -- those older than 80 -- participated.

In addition to studying practical questions on the Pope's funeral and the vacancy of the See, the cardinals addressed in particular "the problems of the Church and of the world."

Exiting one of these congregations, a European cardinal said: "There is agreement over the problems; now we must choose the person."

Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office, said on Saturday that "in no congregation were names ever brought up."

In addition to these general assemblies, as occurred before previous conclaves, some cardinals have held informal meetings in religious residences in Rome.

The participants, whose names in some cases have reached the media, confirm that these meetings were not organized according to "progressive" or "conservative" agendas.

Navarro Valls clarified on Saturday: "The climate of these congregations has been one of great familiarity. This has been perhaps an expression of the great responsibility that all the cardinals feel at this time. That allowed them to find great consensus on the general themes faced in the discussions."