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No names mentioned as cardinals end preparatory meetings

Ahead of the formal commencement of the papal conclave late tonight Australian time, the cardinals concluded their pre-conclave meetings without mention of the names of possible successors to Pope John Paul II.

Catholic World News reports that the last of 12 meetings of the "general congregation" took place on Saturday. Although the cardinals' discussions during these meetings are strictly confidential, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters that he had been authorised to make two general observations.

First, Navarro-Valls said, "The climate of these congregations has been one of great familiarity." The cardinals exchanged views freely on the challenges facing the Church, and found a "great consensus on the general themes" of their talks. The cardinals also shared a feeling of "great responsibility" as they prepared to choose the 265th Pope, he said.

Second, the Vatican spokesman said, although the cardinals spoke about the needs of the Church and of the papacy, "in no congregation were names ever brought up." The cardinals will not discuss specific candidates for the papacy until they enter the conclave.

During their Saturday meeting, the cardinals discussed some specific provisions of the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, which governs the conduct of the conclave, Navarro-Valls continued. They also discussed the arrangements for their lodging in the St. Martha residence.

The general congregation of also included one light moment, which Navarro-Valls reported to the press. On behalf of the College of Cardinals, the camerlengo, Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo wished a happy 78th birthday to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who will enter the conclave as the focus of the most intense speculation among journalists hoping to predict the papal election.

Dr Navarro-Valls also briefed reporters about plans for the opening of the conclave late tonight. All of the cardinal-electors will be staying at the St. Martha residence throughout the conclave. On Sunday evening they all had dinner together there.

On Monday morning local time, the cardinals are concelebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger the principal celebrant. That afternoon at 4:30 Rome time, their formal procession from the apostolic palace into the Sistine Chapel will be broadcast live on television.

Once inside the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals will swear a solemn oath-- first collectively, then individually-- vowing to maintain the secrecy of the conclave, to abide by the rule set forth in Universi Dominici Gregis for the papal election, and if elected to serve faithfully as Roman Pontiff. Following the administration of that oath, Cardinal Tomas Spidlik will preach a meditation, exhorting the electors to be diligent in their work and open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Then the doors of the chapel are closed, and the work of the papal election begins.

Navarro-Valls said that the cardinals will decide on Monday afternoon whether or not they should take a vote immediately. Universi Dominici Gregis allows for one ballot on the first day of the conclave.

On subsequent days, the Vatican press spokesman said, the schedule for the conclave will begin at 7:30 will Mass concelebrated in the chapel of the St. Martha residence. At 9 the cardinals will assemble in the Sistine Chapel to pray Lauds from the Liturgy of the Hours, and then proceed with voting. Universi Dominici Gregis calls for 2 votes each morning, and 2 each afternoon. The afternoon voting session will begin at 4, Navarro-Valls said; it will be followed by the recitation of Vespers.

No names mentioned as cardinals end preparatory meetings (Catholic World News 16/4/05)
Detailed schedule for conclave announced (Catholic World News 16/4/05)

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18 Apr 2005