Illness May Keep Some From Conclave

Cardinals Say They’ll Be Absent

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2005 ( Some cardinals have already advised that they will be absent from the conclave due to illness.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls revealed that information today and indicated he would give more details in the near future.

The norms on the election of a pope, contained in the 1996 apostolic constitution «Universi Dominici Gregis,» establish that «[a]ll the Cardinal electors, convoked for the election of the new Pope by the Cardinal Dean, or by another Cardinal in his name, are required, in virtue of holy obedience, to obey the announcement of convocation and to proceed to the place designated for this purpose,» which is Vatican City.

But the document makes an exception: «unless they are hindered by sickness or by some other grave impediment, which however must be regarded as such by the College of Cardinals.»

«[S]hould any Cardinal electors arrive ‘re integra,’ that is, before the new Pastor of the Church has been elected, they shall be allowed to take part in the election at the stage which it has reached,» it continues in No. 39, referring to the cardinals who, arriving late at the conclave, retain the right to participate in the works of the election.

It states in No. 40: «If a Cardinal with the right to vote should refuse to enter Vatican City in order to take part in the election, or subsequently, once the election has begun, should refuse to remain in order to discharge his office, without manifest reason of illness attested to under oath by doctors and confirmed by the majority of the electors, the other Cardinals shall proceed freely with the election, without waiting for him or readmitting him.»

It continues: «If reasons of health, previously confirmed by the appropriate Congregation of Cardinals, require that a Cardinal elector should have a nurse in attendance, even during the period of the election, arrangements must be made to provide suitable accommodation for the latter,» in Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the cardinals will reside.

«If there are Cardinal electors who are sick and confined to their rooms, referred to in Nos. 41 ff of this Constitution, the three ‘Infirmarii’ go to them with a box which has an opening in the top through which a folded ballot can be inserted,» with the guarantees provided in No. 67 of the document.

Each sick cardinal «writes his vote in secret, folds the ballot,» and takes the following oath like the other electors present in the Sistine Chapel: «I put as witness the Lord Christ, who will judge me, that I give my vote to the one who, in the presence of God, I believe should be elected.»

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