In Pope's Absence, Curia Keeps Working

Cardinals Substitute in Various Functions

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2005 ( Amid questions about who is running the Vatican during John Paul II’s hospitalization, the Pope himself noted that he continues to function as visible head of the Church.

«I continue to serve the Church and the whole of humanity,» said the Pope from the window of his room at the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome.

At the Vatican, the agencies of the Roman Curia are expecting a relatively normal workweek. Heads of Vatican organizations who were contacted by ZENIT said that their daily work has resumed as if the Pope were on an international trip. During his 26-year pontificate, John Paul II has been out of the Vatican 543 days, about 18 months.

For his own appointments, canceled since Jan. 30 due to his bout of flu, the Pope has had to write messages instead of delivering the prepared addresses in person.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, is substituting for the Holy Father in receiving politicians and other personalities. On Friday, the cardinal met with Joseph Borrell, president of the European Parliament. On Tuesday he will receive Condoleezza Rice, the new U.S. secretary of state.

Cardinals of the Curia are acting as substitutes for liturgical celebrations. Archbishop Franc Rodé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, celebrated the Mass for the World Day of Consecrated Life last Wednesday.

The Vatican press office announced Saturday that Cardinal James Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary (a tribunal of the Holy See), will act as a substitute for the Pope this coming Ash Wednesday.

Referring to the activity the Curia, Cardinal Stafford told the newspaper La Repubblica that «each one of us has the authority and capacity to continue the work in his own area.»

«I, for example, with my collaborators must respond to people who turn to the Holy See for matters of conscience or to answer questions related to ‘reserved sins,'» he said. «It is the will of the Church and of the Pope that we continue with the tasks that have been entrusted to us.»

«If I had a problem, I would go to Cardinal Sodano. I have always found him open and available,» the cardinal added.

Independently of the Pope’s health, the activity of the Vatican will slow down Feb. 13 with the start of the annual spiritual exercises normally attended by the Holy Father and officials of the Curia.

Unless complications develop, John Paul II will most likely return to the Vatican and attend the retreat with his aides.

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