This Time, Bells Will Help Announce Papal Election

Cardinals Won’t Be Confined to One Area During Conclave

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 5, 2005 ( In the forthcoming conclave cardinals will not be shut-in in one place, as in the past. And this time, bells as well as white smoke will help to announce the election of a new pope.

Archbishop Piero Marini, master of pontifical liturgical celebrations, outlined some of the novelties that will mark the upcoming conclave that will choose a successor to John Paul II. One thing that won’t change is the emphasis on secrecy.

The normative for the holding of the conclave was written by John Paul II in 1996 in the apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis,” whose general features were described in a press conference today.

At today’s press conference, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls explained that the congregation of cardinals has yet to decide when the conclave will begin. According to the apostolic constitution it must take place 15 to 20 days after the Pontiff’s death.

The new norms give the cardinals, shut-in in the Vatican, “more ample spaces,” although the same rigidity is kept in regard to the conclave’s secret character, he explained.

The conclave, which will be attended by 117 cardinal electors (younger than age 80), will take place in Vatican City, in St. Martha’s House, a new residence where the cardinals will be accommodated, in various chapels for liturgical celebrations, and in the Sistine Chapel, where the voting will take place.

“Areas used by the cardinals” will be inaccessible to “unauthorized persons” and, in fact, “no one will be able to approach the cardinals,” emphasized the archbishop.

In the past, the organization of this meeting “was easier,” Archbishop Marini admitted, “as the cardinals were actually locked in with wooden columns and the windows were sealed. In a word, it was not possible to enter where they were, nor could they come out.”

“All this caused many problems, with offices transformed into bedrooms where up to five cardinals slept, few bathrooms, and no running water. Hence the decision to adapt to the times,” he clarified.

The cardinals are still forbidden to listen to the radio, watch television, read newspapers or speak on the telephone; and now, they may not communicate on Internet.

“It is a new experience, but everything will turn out well, thanks to the common sense of all,” Archbishop Marini added.

The prelate explained that the “white smoke” has been kept to proclaim the new Pope. The smoke is produced by burning slips of paper in a stove of the Sistine Chapel, adding a chemical to produce the color.

“We will try to have it work better than last time,” he said, as in 1978 the smoke’s gray color created confusion. “In addition, the bells will ring in celebration, so the journalists will be certain.”

Another novelty is that the vote is exclusively “secret”; in the past, there was the possibility to be elected by acclamation of the cardinals’ assembly.

Also new is the task the Pope entrusted in “Universi Dominici Gregis” to the non-elector cardinals, older than 80, who do not participate in the conclave.

While the conclave is in session, they must act “as guides of the People of God” in Rome and in dioceses worldwide, organizing “intense prayers and supplications to the Divine Spirit” for the conclave.

There will also be novelties in the burial rites of the Roman Pontiff. Archbishop Marini announced that on this occasion, before closing the coffin, the Holy Father’s face will be covered with a white silk veil, moments before the funeral begins.

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