Roman Catholic cardinals meeting at the Vatican have agreed not to talk to the news media before they go into a closed-door conclave to choose a new pope.

A spokesman said they have begun a period of intense silence and prayer. The decision follows Friday's emotional funeral and burial of Pope John Paul, who died a week ago. The conclave begins on April 18th.

Monarchs, presidents, prime ministers and tens of thousands of others attended Friday's funeral service and millions more watched on television. Many in the crowd chanted 'sainthood now' during the ceremonies, but a Vatican spokesman said today (Saturday) a decision on whether to start the long process of declaring the late pope a saint would have to be made by a new pope.

The Church has begun nine days of official mourning for the pope. Special commemorative Masses are being held at the Vatican, presided over by many of the cardinals who will choose the new pontiff.

A Vatican spokesman announced Saturday that there will be 115 cardinals at the conclave when it starts in nine days. There are 117 cardinals under the age of 80 as required by church law, but two are too sick to travel.

Rome is returning to normal after hosting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who jammed St. Peter's Square and the surrounding streets of Rome to pay their last respects.