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Cardinals yet to set date for conclave

Cardinals meeting in Rome have been preoccupied with arranging the funeral of Pope John Paul II and have not yet set a date for the start of a conclave to elect a successor to the late Pope John Paul II, according to Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

Dr Navarro-Valls was speaking after the cardinals met for the second successive day following the death of the Holy Father on Sunday morning Australian time. He said that 91 cardinals are now in Rome, although three played no part in yesterday's meeting.

Under Vatican rules, a conclave must start between 15 and 20 days after a pope's death, which would mean 17 April at the earliest. Altogether, 117 cardinals are eligible to vote.

The Vatican still does not know the identity of a cardinal nominated by the late Pope two years ago but whose identity he kept secret.

"At the moment, nobody knows anything about it. Before the pope's death, it wasn't revealed," Dr Navarro-Valls said. "We don't know if there is something in the text of the testament left by the Pope.

One of the duties of the College of Cardinals before a conclave is to elect a successor to the late Pope, is to read any documents he may have left.

The next Pope is likely to be a compromise choice because there is no outstanding candidate, Melbourne auxiliary bishop Hilton Deakin told The Age yesterday.

Bishop Deakin said the campaigns had started but it was still an open field. The whispering had begun. For example, it was now being suggested that leading candidate Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, had no international experience and did not speak enough languages. "That's Vatican-speak," he said.

Cardinal Edward Clancy, the retired archbishop of Sydney, agreed that no candidate stood out. "A lot of these cardinals I don't know, but of those I do a number could be elected."

Cardinal Clancy is ineligible to elect the next pope because he is over 80. He is too frail to travel to Rome where many ineligible cardinals have gone to lobby and advise the cardinals under 80.

Cardinal Sin, the 76-year-old retired archbishop of Manila who remains the most influential church leader in this predominantly Catholic nation, is suffering from kidney problems and diabetes. Vatican rules do not allow any proxy or representative to vote on behalf of an absent cardinal.

No date set for conclave to elect new pope: Vatican (ABC News 5/4/05)
Jostling starts in the Vatican (The Age 6/4/05)
NZ cardinal prepares to fly to Italy ( 4/4/05)
Key cardinal to miss papal election (The Australian 6/4/05)

6 Apr 2005