What will the cardinals be doing before they are sealed into the Sistine Chapel for the conclave? Several days of meetings discussing logistics and rules, frank discussions about the state of the church and lots of dinners, says Austen Ivereigh, writing in The Tablet, London’s Catholic weekly.
Ivereigh was a director of public affairs for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor when the cardinal was archbishop of Westminster in England.
“What happens in the Sistine Chapel itself [during the conclave] is more like a retreat, or a liturgy, than a discussion,” Ivereigh writes in the article “Selecting a pope – the process.” 
“The early congregations deal with legal and practical issues … After the ‘business’ is over, what follows in the general congregations is a remarkably free-flowing discussion of the state of the Church and what the next papacy should turn its attention to. “
“But just as important are the dinners and receptions, usually in language groups, in the national colleges,” he writes.