Cardinals meet on Monday
Since Thursday 8:00 p.m., the Catholic Church is unshepherded, after Pope Benedict XVI., who was actually appointed Pope for life, has resigned the office. The cardinals of the Catholic Church were officially invited on Friday, to gather in Rome for the preparations regarding the Conclave.
The letters have been sent by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano. Because many Cardinals are already gathered in the Vatican, they should meet on Monday at 9:30 at the Vatican in the new Synod Hall, to prepare for the election of the new Pope. A second meeting is to be held on the same day at 5:00 pm.
According to the Vatican, 115 Cardinals are expected to take part in the Conclave. However, it is still fairly vague when it will begin. There are speculations it might start on March 11, exactly four weeks after Benedict’s historic resignation announcement. By no later than 20 days after the resignation the conclave must start in any case, as required by the regulations. That would be the 20th of March.
Long “pre-Conclave” expected
Anyway, there will still no date for the Conclave be announced on Monday, so the Vatican spokesman, father Federico Lombardi. According to Lombardi, a decision concerning the Conclave will not be made on the first day. Officially, it will not be decided until all eligible Cardinals arrived in Rome.
Core task of the College of Cardinals, is the preparation for the election of the new Pope. Sodano invited 208 Cardinals to the General Congregations in the Apostolic Palace, which will take place every day until the beginning of the Conclave. All cardinals participating in the General Congregation, must swear an oath on the Gospel, to respect the regulations and to practice secrecy.
One can only speculate how long the Conclave will take. A consent on the new Pope is expected by Easter. The longest Conclave in Church history, after the death of Clement IV in 1268, lasted two years, nine months and two days (1,005 days). Benedict XVI. was elected on April 19 2005, only one day after the beginning of the Conclave.
No clear favorite
So far, there are no clear favourites for the choice of the Pope according to Italian media, and the Cardinals take care not to position themself as such. Because an old Roman saying warns about campaigning, even indiscreetly, to become pope or even trying to predict the outcome of conclaves: “He who enters a conclave as pope, exits as a cardinal.”
A strong candidate is for sure the Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola. His candidacy will not only be supported by a large part of the Italian Cardinals, but also from several foreign Cardinals. The Canadian candidate Cardinal Marc Oullet might also have a good chance to be elected.
Names, such as the Brazilians of German descent Odilo Pedro Scherer and his countryman Joao Braz de Aviz are circulating among Latin American Cardinals. The Hungarian Primate Peter Erdo, head of the European Bishops, is considert an alternative. In general, observers expect once more the appointment of an European Pope, as the Conclave is still dominated by European Cardinals (60 of the 115 participating cardinals are Europeans, of which 28 are Italian).
The Emeritus Pope, the Sede Vacante and the new media
Until the appointment of the new Pope, there is also an “empty chair” on the Twitter account of the Pope. In the channel “@Pontifex“, the profile picture of the 85-year-old German was replaced by the emblem of the Holy See and the name was changed to “Sede vacante”. All Tweets from Benedict were archived. The account is to rest, until the new Pope has decided whether he would continue tweeting on the same channel.