Reader’s Guide – Day Seven


A step back: My focus is primarily on Catholic sources for the little news there is early in the week. For those of us who are most  intensely interested, there are a number of small but significant details. But even more, there is confirmation that some of the issued raised in the general-circulation press are part of the discussion in Rome, that they will reverberate in the conclave. They are not impositions by an uninformed and anti-Catholic mindset as cardinals consider the future.


First, the news from the General Congregation: There is still no date set for the start of the conclave. More cardinal electors have arrived, but not all are at hand. The last five to arrive were expected Tuesday night. And, contrary to impressions given yesterday, not all the electors have to be on hand for a date to be set for the conclave. There were double sessions of the congregation Monday, but that will not continue; the cardinals want the extra time to meet their peers and to reflect on their task. The cardinals will take part in a public prayer service Wednesday at St. Peter’s Basilica for the election of a new Pope. Vatican Radio reports that they have new urns for collecting votes in conclave, including some to be carried to the rooms of electors too ill to walk up and deposit their ballots in the usual fashion.

Others arriving in Rome include 4,432 journalists newly accredited for the transition period, bringing the Vatican press corps to 5,000 or so, Vatican Radio reported. And you must look or listen to the interview the same service did with the Italian journalist Mario Politi, who is one of the more careful reporters on Benedict’s papacy. Here are the closing words: If at times, Politi says, “I have been critical towards some aspects of his lack of leadership, it is because it is the duty of a journalist to observe what happens. ... Even if you see a personality and recognize that he is an exceptional or extraordinary personality, whether he is a politician, a leader or a religious leader, you must observe what really happens in his mandate and you must be a witness of things, even if they don’t all go well.”

Reuters quotes an unnamed cardinal, one too old to attend the conclave, that the General Congregation has asked to be briefed on the contents of the report made to Benedict on leaks and accusations of corruption among Vatican officials. ON the record, cardinals who met with the press refused to be drawn out on the possibility, however.

In an interview Monday with Catholic News Agency, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston listed clergy sexual abuse, reform of church administration, and the persecution of Christians as issues a new pope must confront. At a press conference Monday, The New York Times reported, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said the new pope “obviously has to accept the universal code of the church now, which is zero tolerance for anyone who has abused a child. … there’s a deep-seated conviction, certainly on the part of anyone who has been a pastor, that this has to be continually addressed.” La Stampa has an interview with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington on the vision and communication skills he thinks the new pope needs.

And David Perlich of the Canadian Broadcasting Company, has a thoughtful piece on the grand electors, the kingmakers of any conclave. But he would admit readily that the proof is I n the pontiff to emerge; many who go in a popemaker come out disgruntled or surprised.

As for the meeting to come, two electors who attended the last conclave talked about the fear and trembling they felt, in yet another fascinating story by Catholic News Service. Most of their time was spent in the Sistine Chapel, even when the assembly was not voting. Last weekend, the Vatican press office called attention to a publication that hinted at that solemnity, a meditation by John Paul II on the scenes Michelangelo presents in the chapel; it was published in L’Osservatore Romano and reprinted on the EWTN website.

Father Tom Reese, blogging for the National Catholic Reporter, has a more insouciant take on the debate so far: “In other words, they want Jesus Christ with an MBA. The problem, of course, is that he died, rose from the dead, and left town to join the family business. Frankly, there is no one in the College of Cardinals that fits the job description. Jesus may have founded the church, but he left it to human beings to run.”

Benedict’s tweets have been archived, but cardinal electors have continued to post on Twitter, which may continue until the conclave begins. Catholic News Service looked at the latest 140-character messages from the cardinals.

And finally, two more excellent graphics on the details of the conclave meeting, that is, the physical layout and participants, one from The Washington Post and another from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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More to come.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Dan Cosacchi
4 years 7 months ago
Can you clarify the ability of the college of cardinals to set the date of the conclave without all of the electors present as you suggest above? I ask only because Pope Benedict's recent motu proprio states in no. 37 that all of the electors must be present in order to set the date earlier than March 15. Thanks for all your helpful reporting!
James Franklin
4 years 7 months ago

I wish I were in a position to ask more questions of the principals directly, but I'm in the United States, callilng attention to other people's journalism.  As I scanned news reports and opinion postings Tuesday morning, I believe I saw a couiple of reports quoting Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican Press Office, making the point about setting the conclave date. In a quick check Tuesday evening, here is one report I found from CNN, quoting Father Lombardi: "No date has yet been proposed for the conclave to select Pope Benedict XVI's successor, said Lombardi. It is not necessary for all the cardinal-electors to be present for the conclave date to be set, he said, but they do have to be given time to get there."

Here is the link in plain text, in case my use of the comment tool fall short of getting the link properly inserted:

-- James L. Franklin


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