Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, updated journalists on the General Congregations that are continuing today at the Vatican. The College of Cardinals met this morning and will hold a second session this afternoon.
As expectations are running high for an official announcement as to the start of the Conclave, Fr. Lombardi wasted no time in informing the press that no date has been chosen. Fr. Lombardi stressed that the College of Cardinals are aware of the seriousness and responsibility in electing the next Roman Pontiff, and therefore are taking their time in discussing various topics that are facing the Church today.
The director of the Holy See Press Office also denied a report by a press agency which stated that the Master of Ceremonies for the Supreme Pontiff had reserved St. Peter’s Basilica for the “Pro Eligendo Summo Pontefice” Mass, which is celebrated prior to the start of the Conclave.
“I spoke with the Master of Ceremonies Marini [Msgr. Guido Marini, master of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff] personally and that is definitely not the case,” Fr. Lombardi stated.
“Moreover, reserving St. Peter’s Basilica is not the task of the Master of Ceremonies but of the College of Cardinals. That news, therefore, is completely false. Also, all priests can celebrate a “pro eligendo Summo Pontefice” Mass asking God to enlighten the pontifical College in these days so such a Mass would not indicate the beginning of the Conclave.”
Today’s General Congregation was attended by 152 Cardinals. 114 of the Cardinal Electors are presently in Rome with the final elector, Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, archbishop of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, set to arrive this afternoon.
Fr. Lombardi also stated that three new Cardinal assistants, who are chosen every three days to assist the Camerlengo, were chosen by lot. The Cardinal assistants chosen were: from the Order of Bishops, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, O.M.M., patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon; from the Order of Priests, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; and from the Order of Deacons, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, C.S., president emeritus of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
Answering several inquiries made yesterday as to whether the College of Cardinals would release a statement of condolence for recently deceased Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, Fr. Lombardi said that a draft of the telegram was read by Cardinal Angelo Sodano and approved by the cardinals.
“When a head of state dies,” Fr. Lombardi explained, “the Pope always sends a telegram of condolence. In this case, during the Sede Vacante, that task falls to the College of Cardinals.”
Profiling the Next Roman Pontiff
Speaking on the topics discussed in today’s congregations, Fr. Lombardi said that 16 Cardinals addressed the assembly. The first three interventions dealt with finances and the patrimony of the Holy See. The interventions were given by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA); and Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State.
“They were brief but clear reports of each one’s area of competence bearing in mind that there is always an established date to present the previous year’s balance, which is released in July. Today’s was a quick way of giving information in broad outlines,” Fr. Lombardi said.
Among the topics that have been discussed in the past few days, the Cardinals also spoke on ecumenism and the churches efforts in charitable works. All the topics discussed, Fr. Lombardi explained aid in identifying the characteristics and a profile of the next Roman Pontiff.
Addressing media concerns regarding the decision by U.S. Cardinals to cease speaking to the press during the General Congregations, Fr. Lombardi referred to the Apostolic Constitution written by Blessed John Paul II regarding the elections of the Roman Pontiff.
“Article 12 of the Apostolic Constitution ‘Universi Dominici Gregis’ states that the cardinals must take an oath to observe the provisions made within and to maintain secrecy.
Obviously, it is different from the oath made at the Conclave,” Fr. Lombardi said.
“However, the common denominator is maintaining the reserve and privacy of the institutional atmosphere as a College, not just as private individuals. For example, during the Sede Vacante of 2005, the cardinals decided and voted not to give interviews after the first Congregations.”
Fr. Lombardi concluded his briefing by giving journalists a look at the work being done in the Sistine Chapel. A video provided by the Vatican’s CTV, showed workers preparing the floor elevation, as well as the installation of the two stoves that will be used to burn ballots and signal the election or non-election of the new pope.