Start of Conclave: Decision expected on Wednesday

Also on Tuesday, there was still no decision on the beginning of the Conclave in Rome. Five of Cardinals eligible to vote have still not arrived. The date is expected to be set on Wednesday.

Still no date is fixed for the election of a new Pope. A consultation of the Cardinals already gathered in Rome on Tuesday morning, had come to an end without a decision on the beginning of the Conclave, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi reported at a press conference at the Sala Stampa on Tuesday. The decision was expected for Wednesday.

Instead, the Cardinals formulated a telegram to the retired Pope. Therein, they thanked him for his service to the universal Church. In the telegram, that was published by the Vatican, the participants in the preparatory circle for the Conclave expressed the “Gratitude of the whole Church” for Benedict’s “tireless work in the Lord’s wineyard”. “In the end, the members of the College of Cardinals are counting on your prayers for them and the entire Holy Church”, it says in the letter signed by Dean of Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

110 Eligible voters on-site

According to Lombardi, 110 of the expected 115 Cardinals eligible to vote the new Pope have already arrived in Rome. The remaining five, among them the German Cardinal Karl Lehmann, were expected anytime soon. On Tuesday morning, Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela from Madrid had taken the oath to comply with the secrecy and the Conclave rules.

Already on Monday, the other present Cardinals had sworn the oath. Each individually stepped forward, put his hand on the Bible and vowed “rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman pontiff,” like defined in the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis” by John Paul II in 1996.

No absolute ban on speaking

Spokesman Lombardi pointed out that there is not an absolute ban on speaking for the Cardinals during the Sede Vacante. The Cardinals are of course free to speak about other topics, such as the position of the Church in a particular continent or on the subject of the new evangelization, until the start of the Conclave.

On Tuesday, 148 Cardinals attended the second day of the General Congregations. Cardinals who are already over 80 years old may participate in these meetings, even though they are not even admitted to the papal elections. On Wednesday afternoon, the Cardinals will meet in the St. Peter’s Basilica for prayer, so Lombardi. The ceremony will be headed by Dean of Cardinal Angelo Sodano and is open to public.

Sistine Chapel already locked

The Sistine Chapel, where the voting should start next week, is already closed for the public. Before the start of the conclave, the Sistine Chapel must be equipped with desks and furniture, and also a new leveled floor has to be installed.

Technicians worked on the roofs of the Vatican and inside the Sistine Chapel to protect the secrecy of the first papal Conclave of the digital age, while preserving historical aspects of the vote. Overall, about 40 people are engaged in the preparatory work.

So far, 4.432 journalists from 66 countries have registered officially at the Vatican for the time of the Sede Vacante and the Conclave, reported Lombardi. An additional 600 media representatives have a permanent accreditation. The urns, designed by Italian sculptor Cecco Bonanotte, that will be used during the Conclave have also been presented at a press conference on Wednesday.

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