Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, briefed journalist today on the General Congregation of Cardinals that took place yesterday evening and this morning at the Synod Hall of the Paul VI Audience Hall.
Yesterday, four more Cardinal electors arrived and took the oath that was taken earlier in the day by the Cardinals. The cardinals that arrived yesterday afternoon were the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, Cardinal Meisner of Cologne, Cardinal Woelki of Berlin, and Cardinal Sarr of Dakar.
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, offered his meditation to the cardinals as prescribed by the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis.
Regarding this morning’s congregation meeting, Father Lombardi stated that 148 cardinals were present today. Among them, two Cardinal Electors arrived and swore the oath: Cardinal Rouco Varela of Madrid and Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education. Five cardinals who are over the age of 80 also arrived and swore the oath.
As of now, 110 of the 115 Cardinal electors are currently present.
Preparing for the Conclave
Among the topics discussed in today’s session, Fr. Lombardi stated that the Cardinals spoke on the activities of the Holy See and its relations with bishops throughout the world, Church renewal in light of the Second Vatican Council, the Church’s current situation and the need for the New Evangelization in today’s world with its diverse cultural environments.
Number 37 of Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio concerning the beginning of the Conclave was presented to the prelates but no decision has been made on a date.
After drafting a final letter to Benedict XVI, the cardinals presented and approved a proposal to have a Prayer for the Church to be held tomorrow afternoon in front of the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. The gathering is expected to be open to the public.
As of this afternoon, Fr. Lombardi confirmed that the Sistine Chapel will be closed as work commences on preparing the chapel for the upcoming conclave. The work that will be done consist of building a floor and the installation of the stoves that will produce the smoke announcing the election of the new pontiff.
In regards to media coverage so far, the director of the Holy See Press Office confirmed that over 5000 journalists from 64 nations and reporting in 24 different languages have been accredited so far.
Concluding his briefing, Father Lombardi showed journalists a video of the three urns that will be used throughout the course of the Conclave to receive the votes of the Cardinal electors. One urn will be used to collect the ballots, one will be used to place the ballots once they are counted prior to burning, and one will be used to collect the vote of a Cardinal elector in case he is ill and cannot be present at the Sistine Chapel.