Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, briefed journalists today on the Fourth General Congregation which took place this morning in the Vatican. Fr. Lombardi stated that as of now, 153 cardinals were present.
Four Cardinals, three of whom are Cardinal electors, arrived and were sworn in today as well. The cardinal electors who arrived were Cardinal Antonios Naguib, Patriarch emeritus of Alexandria, Egypt; Cardinal Karl Lehmann, bishop of Mainz, Germany; and Cardinal John Tong Hon, bishop of Hong Kong, China.
The Cardinal non-elector who arrived today was Cardinal Frederich Wetter, archbishop emeritus of Munich, Germany.
As of now, 113 of the 115 Cardinal electors are present. The final two electors are Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, archbishop of Warsaw, Poland who is expected to arrive this afternoon and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, archbishop of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam who will arrive tomorrow morning.
“In the fraternal spirit that characterizes the Congregations, Cardinal Angelo Sodano [Dean of the College of Cardinals] wished a happy birthday to Cardinal Walter Kasper (who turned 80 yesterday), Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio (who turns 75 today), and Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, C.SS.R., (who turns 77 tomorrow),” Fr. Lombardi said.
Cardinal Kasper will continue to be a Cardinal elector since the Apostolic Constitution regulating the procedure for electing the pontiff establishes the age limit for cardinals entering the Conclave to be determined from the beginning of the period of the Sede Vacante.
This morning 18 cardinals addressed the gathering. The director of the Holy See Press office gave a general overview of their nature while respecting the privacy of the details that were discussed.. “The major theme was the Church in the world, the New Evangelization. Other topics included the Holy See, its Dicasteries and relations with bishops. A third theme was a profile of expectations for the next pope in view of the good government of the Church,” Fr. Lombardi said.
Since the start of the General Congregations, 51 interventions have been given so far. Due to the large number of cardinals who wish to speak, a five minute time limit was established. However, Fr. Lombardi stated that there is no strict enforcement of the time limit. The Cardinals present have decided that tomorrow they will meeting both in the morning and afternoon.
Freedom to Reflect on Important Decision
Several journalists inquired on the recent decision by the U.S. Cardinals Media Relations director to no longer hold future press briefings or interviews.
In a statement released one hour prior to the American Cardinals press briefing, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that there were concerns about “leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers.”
As a precaution, Sr. Walsh stated that the American cardinals have agreed to do no further interviews.
Fr. Lombardi stated that “the Congregations are not a synod or a congress in which we try to report the most information possible, but a path toward arriving at the decision of electing the Roman Pontiff.”
“In this sense, the tradition of this path is one of reservation in order to safeguard the freedom of reflection on the part of each of the members of the College of Cardinals who has to make such an important decision. It does not surprise me, therefore, that along this path there were, at the beginning, moments of openness and communication and that afterwards, in harmony with the rest of the College, it has been established whether and how to communicate.”
The director of the Holy See Press Office also confirmed that as of now, no date has been set for the start of the conclave, saying that the College of Cardinals are preparing in a way that is “serious, profound, and unhurried.”
“Perhaps that is why it still did not seem opportune to take a vote on the date of the Conclave, which a large part of the College could sense as something forced in the dynamic of reflection. It also needs to be kept in mind that some cardinals are still arriving and it would be a sign of respect for them to wait until the College is complete.”