Only five cardinals have yet to reach Rome. The porporati continued to arrive at yesterday afternoon's General Congregation and the third Congregation this morning. According to Fr. Federico Lombardi's press briefing today, there are now 148 cardinals present of the 207 that comprise the College of Cardinals.
The Director of the Holy See Press Office has been assisted in recent days by Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., (for English and French), and by Msgr. José María Gil Tamayo (for Spanish). Among the cardinal electors who have yet to arrive are Kazimierz Nycz (Poland) and Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man (Vietnam). However, as Fr. Lombardi noted today, “it is not necessary for all of them to be here to set the date of the conclave, we just want to know when they arrive in order to be certain of their presence in the Sistine Chapel.”
Meanwhile, the Sistine Chapel was closed off to tourists as of this afternoon, as work began principally to prepare the two stoves that will pour forth the smoke announcing the election of the new Pope. “In one of the stoves”, Lombardi explained, "the scrutinized ballots are burned, and the other is used to produce the white smoke or black smoke that comes out of the Chapel’s chimney: alone, the ballots themselves would be insufficient to produce that amount of smoke”.
The cardinals who arrived today swore the oath as prescribed in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregris. They then participated in the work of the Congregations. Yesterday afternoon, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., Preacher to the Papal Household, offered the first of the two meditations prescribed by the norms regarding the Sede vacante and the election of the new Pontiff.
Within two days, a total of 33 interventions have been made in the Synod Hall. The cardinals discussed topics related to activities of the Holy See and its relations with bishops throughout the world; Church renewal in light of Vatican Council II; and the Church’s position and the need for the New Evangelization in today’s world, with its diverse cultural environments.
Asked by journalists whether the Vatileaks scandal had been discussed, Lombardi did not comment (he is held to silence). He did, however, say that they “spoke about the problems facing the Church.” He also noted that “all of the continents were represented” in the interventions, as a sign of the great representation formed by the assembly.
No decision has been reached yet on the start-date of the conclave. Number 37 of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis was read together with the changes introduced by the recent Motu Proprio regarding the beginning date of the Conclave. However, the cardinals neither reached a decision on the matter, nor even set a date when the decision would be made.
“From what I can perceive,” Lombardi stated, “it’s an open issue: the Congregation wants to have the needed time to adequately prepare for the conclave without a rush”.
To accommodate a time for reflection and for informing themselves, the cardinals therefore decided that today and tomorrow’s Congregations would be held only in the morning. Then, on Wednesday at 5:00 PM Rome, the Cardinals will gather at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica for the recitation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, followed by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Vespers. All the faithful are encouraged to participate in the event by their own prayer.
Intercessory prayer was also requested of the Pope Emeritus of Rome.
In a telegram sent to Benedict XVI at the end of this morning’s meeting, the cardinals said: “The Cardinal Fathers, gathered at the Vatican for the General Congregations in view of the next conclave, send you their devoted greetings and wish to express their renewed gratitude for your luminous Petrine ministry, and for your example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world.”
The telegram continued, “By their own gratitude, they wish to represent the entire Church’s appreciation for your tireless work in the vineyard of the Lord.” The telegram concluded: “Lastly, the members of the College of Cardinals entrust themselves to your prayer for them and for the entire Holy Church.”