“It is difficult to say if there is any definite connection between the amount of preparation being carried out by the Congregations and the length of the conclave; however, the College of Cardinals intends to carry out its preparatory work well, in order to enter the conclave by a mature decision.” This was Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi’s response to a question asked by a journalist during this morning’s briefing regarding the process that will lead to the election of Benedict XVI’s successor.
What is certain is that not even the Fourth General Congregations of the College of Cardinals, which convened this morning, has produced the long awaited (especially by the media) start-date of the conclave. To date, there are 153 cardinals in Rome, 113 of whom are cardinal-electors. The only cardinal-electors still absent are Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, and the Vietnamese Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man. The two Cardinals are expected to arrive, respectively, on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. This means that as of Thursday morning all the cardinal-electors will be in Rome.
The decision was made today that the College of Cardinals will meet Thursday afternoon.
Cardinals from all over of the globe gave 18 interventions during today’s Congregation. This brings the total number of addresses given to date to 51. With numerous other interventions on the list, each of the cardinals was invited to limit his address to “roughly” five minutes. Fr. Lombardi noted, however, that as time runs out, the speaker “doesn’t lose the floor” but only receives a signal to wrap up.
The interventions touched upon issues related to the Church in the world today, the needs of the New Evangelization, the Holy See, the Dicasteries and their relations with bishops, and the expectations for and a profile of the future Pope.
Some concern was raised among journalists at the news – which arrived at this morning’s press briefing by mail – that the press conference scheduled with American Cardinals Francis George
and Theodore McCarrick
had been cancelled. In recent days, a number of American cardinals, while respecting confidentiality, have been “opening up” a bit more with the media via news conferences about the work being carried out in the Congregations.
“I do not give directions to the cardinals on how to deal with the press,” Fr. Lombardi said regarding the matter. “It is the responsibility of the Cardinals to make these decisions within the College itself.”
“I am not surprised,” Lombardi added, “that the College has gradually developed its mode of intervening and that openness has moved towards a growing reserve.”
Just a few minutes later, an explanation arrived at the press office (again, via mail) from the spokeswoman for the American cardinals, Sr. Mary Anne Walsh. The statement read: “Concern was expressed in the General Congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers. As a precaution, the cardinals have agreed not to do interviews”.