Martedì, 18 Settembre 2018
VATICAN CITY

Cardinals set for talks ahead of conclave

English
© ANSA

Vatican City, March 1 - As the sun set on Benedict
XVI's eight-year reign Thursday, cardinals were already looking
towards the conclave that will elect the successor to the first
pope to abdicate in 600 years.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals on
Friday summoned cardinals for the first in a series of talks
Monday morning ahead of the secret electoral gathering in the
Sistine Chapel.
The date for the conclave may not be set Monday, Vatican
spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Friday.
Observers expect it to come around March 10-11, after
Benedict issued a last-minute decree waiving the mandatory
15-day waiting period after the end of a papal reign.
More than half, 67, of the cardinal-electors were appointed
by Benedict and the remaining 50 by his predecessor John Paul
II.
The 117 are now down to 115 after Indonesia's retired
Archbishop of Jakarta, Julius Darmaatjadja, pulled out because
of illness and Britain's top official, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of
Scotland, resigned over allegations of "inappropriate" behaviour
with priests.
A majority of the cardinals, 59, are European, and 28
Italian, raising the chances of the first Italian pope since the
short-lived John Paul I, who ruled from 26 August 1978 until his
death 33 days later.
But some Vatican watchers think the time might be ripe for
the first African pope.
In 2007 Benedict changed the rules for the first time so
that a two-thirds majority instead of simple majority would be
required for electing a new pope.
Traditionally, the process of electing a new pope begins in
the morning with a special mass, 'Pro Eligendo Papa', in St
Peter's Basilica.
In the afternoon, the cardinals who have gathered from
all over the world assemble in the basilica's 'Aula della
Benedizione' to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit
by singing the Latin hymn Veni Creator (Come Holy Spirit).
They then proceed to the Sistine Chapel, where they
begin the process of choosing the pope's successor.
This highly secretive meeting under Michelangelo's
famous frescoed ceiling is known as the conclave, from the Latin
cum clave, which means literally 'with-key', because in the past
cardinals were often locked into a room while the voting was
going on.
Nowadays they are not going to be locked into the
Sistine Chapel but, in the interests of secrecy, they will be
confined to the Vatican and contact with the outside world
will be cut to a minimum.
Only cardinals, the 'princes' of the Church, can vote
for popes. Paul VI excluded cardinals over 80 from the
election and limited electors to 120.
The latest major legislation on conclaves is in the
apostolic constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis' (The Lord's
Whole Flock), published by Pope John Paul in 1996. It confirmed
the limit of 120 cardinals.
'Universi Dominici Gregis' forbids electioneering and
deal-making. It says: "The cardinal electors shall abstain
from any form of pact, agreement, promise or other commitment
of any kind."
"(They are) not to allow themselves to be guided...by
friendship or aversion, or to be influenced by favor or
personal relationships towards anyone, or to be constrained
by the interference of persons in authority or by pressure
groups, by the suggestions of the mass media, or by force,
fear or the pursuit of popularity."
Each elector writes the name of his chosen candidate on
his ballot paper under the words Eligo in Summum Pontificem
(I elect as supreme pontiff). He then walks to the altar and
slides his slip in the ballot box saying: "I call as my
witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge that my
vote is given to the one whom I think should be elected."
There are four ballots per day and, at least to begin
with, a majority of two thirds of the votes is required.
If no one has been chosen after three days, there is a
pause of up to one day for prayer, "informal discussion among
the voters," and a brief spiritual exhortation by the senior
cardinal-deacon. At this point, the so-called "great
electors" - cardinals good at negotiating agreements and
organizing voting blocs - come into their own.
After the pause, voting continues for another seven
ballots, followed by another pause, seven more ballots, and
so on, until there have been up to 30 ballots extending over
10 or 12 days.
At this point a new rule created by John Paul II in
Universi Dominici Gregis kicks in. The chamberlain is to
invite the cardinals to "express an opinion about the manner
of proceeding" - and the election will then go forward as the
majority decides.
One way to get a majority quickly, the document points
out, is to vote on the two candidates who got the most votes
in the previous round. If there was deadlock and the process
became protracted, cardinals would have been able to go for a
simple majority of 50% plus one - before Benedict's insistence
on a two-thirds majority.
John Paul introduced the simple majority as a way of trying
to hasten elections, but Benedict, an even bigger traditionalist
than his predecessor, changed the bar back to 66% because he
felt any pope needed as much legitimation as possible, for a
stronger mandate.
As the name conclave suggests, secrecy is a paramount
consideration throughout the process and the last two popes came
up with several new rules to preserve it.
Security specialists will check the Sistine for bugs.
The cardinals are not to communicate with anyone outside. Nor
are they allowed access to phones, both mobile and landlines,
newspapers, radio or TV.
Despite the Vatican's recent opening to social media,
including Facebook and Twitter, the Internet is also strictly
off limits.

photo: Sodano with Benedict

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