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American cardinals fall silent amid Vatican concern at media leaks

There will be no more press conferences from U.S. Cardinals in Rome. A series of press briefings were a popular way of providing information, but provoked ire in some quarters.  NBC's Anne Thompson reports.

VATICAN CITY – American Roman Catholic cardinals canceled their program of daily media briefings Wednesday amid concern at the Vatican over leaks ahead of the conclave that will elect the next pope.

None of the 11 cardinals from the United States will be giving any interviews until after the conclave ends, according to Sister Mary Ann Walsh, media officer for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Some 153 cardinals are gathering to discuss the new leader for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics following the Feb. 11 decision of Benedict XVI to abdicate on Feb. 28.

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The pope delivers his final audience in St. Peter's Square as he prepares to stand down.

A daily briefing planned for reporters at the North American College, a seminary near the Vatican, was canceled hours before it was due to take place.

The open approach of the U.S. cardinals in recent days had been in contrast to the limited media contact from other quarters of the church, and their comments have been widely reported.

Walsh said concerns had been expressed at Wednesday morning’s Congregation of Cardinals meeting at the Vatican about leaks of confidential discussions at meetings that precede the start of the conclave.

A Vatican official added that there was a tradition of media silence among during sede vacante – the period during which the church chooses a new pope.

Meanwhile, there was still no date set for the start of the conclave – the process of repeated secret ballots by which cardinals elect the new pontiff.

The Cardinals begin meeting next week and a big item on their agenda is to choose a start date for the conclave. Meanwhile the man who was Pope began his new life of prayer and meditation. NBC's Anne Thompson reports from the Vatican.

Of the 115 cardinals eligible to take part and who will attend, all but two had arrived in Rome by Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi announced.

A cardinal from Poland was expected to arrive later Wednesday, while another from Vietnam was due Thursday, Lombardi told reporters.

He said the theme of Wednesday’s pre-conclave discussion among cardinals had been "the church in the world today" and "new evangelization."

A profile of the next pope also began to emerge as the cardinals discussed what they expect from him, Lombardi said.

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Full coverage of papal abdication from NBC News