Lots of Journalists, Little News

Cardinals’ Silence Leaves Media Searching

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ROME, APRIL 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The 6,000 journalists, photographers and television cameramen who arrived in Rome to follow John Paul II’s funeral and the start of the conclave, are all looking for the same thing: news.

The enormous interest the world has to know how the cardinals are preparing for the election of the new pope is running up against the tight control of information on the part of the Vatican.

Correspondents and special envoys walk up and down the two halls of the Vatican press office and around St. Peter’s Square looking for something, anything.

The cardinals are obliged to take an oath «to maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff or those which, by their very nature, during the vacancy of the Apostolic See, call for the same secrecy,» according to the apostolic constitution «Universi Dominici Gregis,» No. 12. That leaves reporters very little to report on.

With the decision of the cardinals last Saturday to not give any interviews even before the start of the conclave, in order to prepare with a greater spirit of recollection and prayer, news has become even more scarce.

The only official sources are statements published by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls. He says at the end of each morning that there is a general congregation of cardinals. His reports, however, do not give details.

He states that the meeting took place, how many cardinals attended, the topic discussed, and in general who spoke, without naming names.

Dozens of journalists wait for the cardinals to exit the meetings, asking them how the meetings are going, without receiving any responses.

The more experienced correspondents, the «Vaticanists» of Italian newspapers, are the ones shaping the news for other news agencies.

Two Italian newspapers published the names of two cardinals who they see as leading contenders in the election. The publication went so far as to say that one had 40 or 50 votes.

Neither of the two newspapers quoted sources or explained how they got the opinion of the 40 or 50 cardinals alluded to, despite the oath they have taken. The news, however, has spread to all news agencies.

The sources also speak of an alleged «confrontation» between «conservatives» and «liberals.»

The big news today was the installation and first tests of the chimney from which the smoke will rise announcing the result of the votes during the conclave.

Some 6,000 journalists were gathered to watch Vatican workers make smoke come out of the chimney.

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