This morning, the first General Congregation of Cardinals took place at the Synod Hall, located in the Paul VI Audience Hall. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, updated journalists this morning about this morning’s proceedings.
The Congregation was headed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, along with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Camerlengo of the Apostolic Chamber, and Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary of the Congregation of Bishops.
After taking their places in order of precedence, meaning according to their standing as Cardinal Bishops, Cardinal Priests or Cardinal Deacons, they opened with the prayer “Veni Sancte Spiritus.” Cardinal Sodano began by greeting the cardinals and informing them of the technical procedures of the meeting. The meeting was simultaneously translated into 5 languages (Spanish, English, Italian, German, and French).
Fr. Lombardi stated that of the 207 Cardinals expected to come to Rome, 142 are present. Of those present, 103 are Cardinal electors, those elegible to elect the new Roman Pontiff.
Following the norms on the election of the Pope laid out in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution, Universi Dominici Gregis, the cardinals in one voice, proclaimed the oath that is to be sworn by all cardinals participating in the Conclave:
“We, the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, of the Order of Bishops, of Priests and of Deacons, promise, pledge and swear, as a body and individually, to observe exactly and faithfully all the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, and 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.”
Fr. Lombardi explained that after proclaiming the oath, each Cardinal approached and, placing his hand on the Gospels, stating: And I, N. Cardinal N., so promise, pledge and swear. So help me God and these Holy Gospels which I now touch with my hand.
‘Serene and Constructive’ Encounter
Following the oath, three cardinal electors who will assist the Camerlengo in the first three days of the congregations were chosen by lots.
Those chosen were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re from the order of bishops, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe from the order of priests, and Cardinal Franc Rode from the order of deacons. Upon being chosen the three cardinals took their places next to the Camerlengo at the head table.
Although Fr. Lombardi was not free to discuss specific details as to what exactly was spoken about during the General Congregation, he did mention that, as is traditional, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Fr. Raniero Catalamessa, O.F.M. Cap, will give the first meditation to the College of Cardinals early this afternoon.
“During the course of the meeting,” Fr. Lombardi added, “Cardinal Sodano proposed to the cardinals that, if they sent a message to the Pope Emeritus, he would give a written response for one of the following meetings.”
Fr. Lombardi concluded his briefing on the congregation, noting that the meeting was carried out in a “serene and constructive” atmosphere. He also stated that there is a genuine “desire to get work done” as well as a great “concern for the needs of the church throughout the whole world.”