VATICAN CITY, APRIL 11, 2005 ( John Paul II's tomb in the Vatican Grottoes may be visited beginning this Wednesday, the congregation of cardinals announced.

Today, 134 cardinals, out of a total of 183 members of the College of Cardinals, participated in the seventh official meeting since the death of John Paul II, reported Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls.

The meeting ended with a call to prayer to the world's billion Catholics, to implore the Holy Spirit to assist the cardinals in the conclave, which begins April 18.

"The Vatican Grottoes will open beginning next Wednesday, April 13, at 7 a.m.," said the director of the Vatican press office. He proposed a special visit for journalists on Tuesday afternoon.

The Pope's tomb, marked by a simple white marble gravestone, is in the same place where John XXIII's mortal remains rested after his death in 1963, until September 2000, when they were moved into St. Peter's Basilica after his beatification.

The cardinals will visit the Pope's tomb on Tuesday, after the Mass for the repose of John Paul II's soul. That Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica at 5 p.m. local time.

"The cardinals renew insistently the exhortation to the whole people of God to support them with intense prayers during these days of preparation for the conclave, so that the Holy Spirit will assist the cardinal electors," added Navarro Valls after today's congregation.

In this connection, "the cardinals advise the bishops and priests of the Church to use the Holy Mass Formulary 'pro Eligendo Summo Pontifice,' which is in the ordinary edition of the Roman Missal," he said.

"Some cardinals will preside at special prayers and Eucharistic celebrations in their titular churches of Rome," he added.

Navarro Valls revealed that, after the initial prayers and oaths of cardinals who were incorporated in the congregation, held in the Vatican's New Synod Hall, the cardinals drew lots to name "the three new attending cardinals who, together with the chamberlain, make up the Particular Congregation."

The 1996 apostolic constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis," regarding the period between a pope's death and the election of his successor, states in No. 8: "The Particular Congregations are to deal only with questions of lesser importance which arise on a daily basis or from time to time. But should there arise more serious questions deserving fuller examination, these must be submitted to the General Congregation."

The cardinals involved are Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state under John Paul II; Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, of the order of priests; and Walter Kasper, until now president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

These cardinals will hold these Particular Congregations during three days; then they will again draw lots to name three other cardinals to replace them.

Finally, Navarro Valls revealed that "the general congregation has begun to examine the expenses generated by the period of the see's vacancy and examined the schedule of the general congregations which from now on will begin at 9 a.m.," instead of 10 a.m. as they have until now.