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Cardinals agree to media blackout of pre-conclave meetings

Posted By February 28, 2013 | 1:07 pm | Featured Article #1
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Citing unauthorized press reports on their preparatory meetings for the upcoming papal election, the College of Cardinals agreed to a media blackout similar to one observed before the previous conclave in 2005. The change was announced March 6 in an email to reporters from Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, following the third day of pre-conclave meetings among cardinals at the Vatican.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Citing unauthorized press reports on their preparatory meetings for the upcoming papal election, the College of Cardinals agreed to a media blackout similar to one observed before the previous conclave in 2005.

The change was announced March 6 in an email to reporters from Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, following the third day of pre-conclave meetings among cardinals at the Vatican.

“Concern was expressed in the general congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers,” Sister Walsh wrote, using the official name for the meetings, which started March 4. “As a precaution, the cardinals have agreed not to do interviews.”

In a second statement later March 6, she added, “The U.S. cardinals are committed to transparency and have been pleased to share a process-related overview of their work with members of the media and with the public, in order to inform while ensuring the confidentiality of the General Congregations.”

The statements followed the last-minute cancellation of a briefing for journalists by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, both of whom will vote in the papal election.

That briefing would have been the third by U.S. cardinals since the start of the meetings. On March 4, Cardinal George appeared with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl; the next day, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston spoke alongside Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.

No other national group of cardinals had made itself available to the media in a similar way, and the U.S. briefings, held at the North American College in Rome, had drawn mounting interest from the international press.

While stressing they were bound by an oath of secrecy about their discussions, the U.S. cardinals answered questions about various topics, including the possible timing of the conclave and controversies over clergy sex abuse and mismanagement in the Vatican.

Many observers voiced surprise at the U.S. cardinals’ availability, recalling the no-interview policy cardinals had observed during the last papal transition, beginning the day after the funeral of Blessed John Paul II.

“This is perhaps more normal in the United States,” Cardinal DiNardo said March 5, explaining that the briefings were intended, in part, to let “our own folks know at home that we are meeting day by day, there are interesting things happening, we’re moving ahead.”

“We’re trying to help people to have a greater understanding of what the process is,” Cardinal O’Malley said.

The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, would not comment on the reasons for the blackout, but said he was not surprised that cardinals who had started with an attitude “of openness, of communication, of sharing” had changed approach in the course of their deliberations, deferring to the “sensitivity, the desire and indications of the whole College of Cardinals.”

The cardinals were on a path toward the conclave, Father Lombardi said, marked by ever increasing degrees of privacy intended to guarantee the freedom of the electors.

One longtime Vatican observer voiced disappointment that a window of openness had closed so quickly.

“It’s ironic and a bit sad that the Americans, who have been completely above board, are being shut down because someone else is leaking anonymously to the Italian press,” said John Thavis, author of “The Vatican Diaries” and former Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service.

Italian media outlets had been running unattributed stories describing the cardinals as sharply divided, over both the timing of the conclave and how deeply to delve into the corruption and mismanagement sensationally documented in the 2012 “VatiLeaks” of confidential correspondence.


Cardinals discuss needs of church but don’t set conclave date

By Carol Zimmermann Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After completing their third pre-conclave meeting, the College of Cardinals still had not announced a date for the conclave. Instead, they used the March 4 and 5 meetings to discuss needs of the church.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, could not give specific details of the discussions because he is bound by an oath of secrecy to give only general information. He said March 5 the subjects were “broad and varied,” and included “the activity of the Holy See and its various dicasteries, their relationships with the bishops, the renewal of the church in the light of the Second Vatican Council, the situation of the church and the needs for new evangelization in the world, including in different cultural situations.”

He noted that by the end of the March 5 session, 33 cardinals “from every continent” had addressed the group. The meeting was attended by 148 cardinals.

Although he said the cardinals made “no decision” about the start of the conclave, there was a presentation that day about the modifications Pope Benedict XVI made to the conclave rules, allowing the cardinals to begin a conclave less than 15 days after the end of a pontificate.

“I did not hear them propose any specific day for voting on the date” for the conclave to begin, Father Lombardi said. “I believe that it is premature to guess the date.”

He also noted that the conclave date is “a theme that is open. The congregation of cardinals is still determining how long it will need to make adequate preparations for a decision as important as a conclave. They don’t want to rush things,” he added.

Father Lombardi also announced that the Sistine Chapel, where the conclave will take place, was officially closed to tourists beginning the afternoon of March 5 so workers could begin preparing it. The major work involves putting in a false floor so there are no steps, then putting in tables and chairs for the cardinals. Two stoves will be installed: one to burn ballots and the other to burn chemicals to create different colored smoke to let the public know if a pope was selected or not.

During the conclave, the cardinals will use three urns for the ballots. Video images of the urns, commissioned by the Vatican for the 2005 conclave, were shown to reporters during the March 5 news conference.

One urn is for the ballots cast in the Sistine Chapel, another is for ballots cast in the Domus Sanctae Marthae by cardinals too ill to go to the chapel. Once those ballots are counted, they will be placed in the third urn and carried to the stove for burning.

As of March 5, 110 cardinal electors had arrived in Rome, Father Lombardi announced.

The cardinals who had not arrived do not need to be present in order for the college to vote on a day to begin the conclave, provided the other cardinals know they will arrive by the starting date.

The five electors yet to arrive were Cardinals Antonios Naguib, former Coptic Catholic patriarch; Karl Lehmann of Mainz, Germany; Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, Poland; and John Tong Hon of Hong Kong.

Father Lombardi said the cardinals who have yet to join the other cardinals had personal reasons for their delay but plan to arrive soon.

The cardinals met twice March 4. Arriving only in time for the afternoon session were Cardinals Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch; Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany; Rainer Maria Woelki of Berlin; Dominik Duka of Prague; and Theodore-Adrien Sarr of Dakar, Senegal.

At the March 5 morning session, two cardinal electors joined: Cardinals Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid and Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

Father Lombardi said March 4 that only two cardinals — Indonesian Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, the 78-year-old retired archbishop of Jakarta, and Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, 74, who retired as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh after being accused of sexual misconduct — have formally informed the Vatican that they will not attend the conclave

The cardinals also accepted a proposal to conduct an evening prayer service March 6 at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica, presided by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.

“The cardinals hope to give a good example of the call to the whole church to live in prayer this time of preparing for the important moment of electing a pope,” Father Lombardi said.

During the second day of pre-conclave gatherings, the cardinals also thanked Pope Benedict XVI for his “tireless work” and example of “generous pastoral concern.”

The telegram, dated March 5, was signed by Cardinal Sodano and sent on behalf of all the cardinals present.

The Vatican said 4,432 journalists had requested accredited just for the interregnum and conclave by March 4; they join some 600 reporters, photographers and videographers accredited to the Vatican permanently. The media represent 1,004 outlets from 65 countries and work in 24 languages, Father Lombardi said.

– – –

Contributing to this report were Cindy Wooden and Carol Glatz.

Vatican Information Services report of Monday, March 4

Vatican City  (VIS) – Early this afternoon Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, informed reporters on the proceedings of the first of the General Congregations of the College of Cardinals. The cardinals’ meeting took place this morning at 9:30am in the Synod Hall, which is located above the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican building created by the Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi.

The Congregation was headed by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College, accompanied by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., camerlengo of the Apostolic Camera, and Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary of the Congregation for Bishops. The members of the College took their places following the hierarchical order of precedence: first those belonging to the order of Cardinal-bishops, then the Cardinal-priests, and finally the Cardinal-deacons. Each cardinal has an assigned seat to facilitate the process of voting.

After the opening prayer, “Veni Sancte Spiritus”, followed by the “Adsumus” prayer, Cardinal Sodano greeted those present in Italian, informing them of the procedures related to the Sede Vacante and how the Congregations, regulated by the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis”, will operate. Following that, technical guidance on the use of microphones and the voting apparatuses was given. The proceedings are being simultaneously translated in five languages: Italian, French, German, Spanish, and English.

There were 142 of the total 207 cardinals present this morning; 103 of those present were Cardinal electors. Expected to arrive this afternoon and tomorrow, therefore, are 63 others including the remaining 12 Cardinal electors. This number—115 Cardinal electors—takes into account the two cardinals who have already indicated that they will not be attending: the archbishop emeritus of Jakarta, Indonesia and the archbishop emeritus of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland.

A Swiss Guard salutes as U.S. Cardinals Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, Edward M. Egan, retired archbishop of New York, and Donald W. Wuerl of Washington arrive for the first general congregation meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican March 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A Swiss Guard salutes as U.S. Cardinals Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, Edward M. Egan, retired archbishop of New York, and Donald W. Wuerl of Washington arrive for the first general congregation meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican March 4. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The gathered cardinals swore to keep secret the deliberations for the election of the future Pope, after which the Cardinal dean, Angleo Sodano, read the oath in Latin, everyone present reciting along with him. After that, each cardinal, according to their order of precedence came forward and took the oath before a Crucifix and with their hand on the Gospels. This process occupied a good portion of the meeting’s time.

Three assistants to the camerlengo were also drawn by lot from the Cardinal electors of each of the orders. As established in No. 7 of “Universi Dominici Gregis”, these three will assist the Cardinal camerlengo for the first three days of the Congregations. Chosen were Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re from the order of bishops, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe from the order of priests, and Cardinal Franc Rode from the order of deacons. After being chosen these three also took their places next to the Camerlengo at the head table.
According to tradition, it is expected that the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Fr. Raniero Catalamessa, O.F.M. Cap, will give the first meditation to the College of Cardinals early this afternoon.

“During the course of the meeting,” Fr. Lombardi added, “Dean Sodano proposed to the cardinals that, if they sent a message to the Pope emeritus, he would give a written response for one of the following meetings.” The Holy See Press Office Director also commented that the atmosphere was very friendly and that the cardinals took a 45-minute break for coffee and to exchange thoughts.

From 11:45am until 12:30pm, 13 cardinals took the floor to address issues mainly related to the process of the proceedings and the questions to be faced, also bearing in mind the results of the latest Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

“You could define this initial encounter,” Fr. Lombardi concluded, “as serene, constructive, and positive.”



Pope Benedict begins emeritus life; cardinals begin ‘sede vacante’ jobs


By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After Pope Benedict XVI officially became pope emeritus, he ate dinner, watched the television news and strolled through the lake-view rooms of the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said he spoke March 1 with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the retired pope’s secretary, who said the mood in the villa after the pontificate ended was “relaxed” and his boss slept well.
After watching two news programs, Pope Benedict expressed his gratitude to the media, because he said the coverage of his last day as pope helped people participate in the event, Father Lombardi said.

Pope Benedict XVI retires to the apartment at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Feb. 28, after appearing for the last time at the balcony of the residence. It was his final public appearance on the balcony before his papacy drew to a close. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photos)

Pope Benedict XVI retires to the apartment at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Feb. 28, after appearing for the last time at the balcony of the residence. It was his final public appearance on the balcony before his papacy drew to a close. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Catholic Press Photos)

The papal secretary said Pope Benedict celebrated Mass at 7 a.m. March 1 as normal, read his breviary, had breakfast and then began reading more of the messages he had received in the last days of his pontificate. He expected to stroll through the villa gardens, praying his rosary, in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, back at the Vatican, officials from the College of Cardinals had a series of tasks to perform at the beginning of the “sede vacante,” the period when there is no pope.
The most symbolic tasks were carried out by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the camerlengo or chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, and his assistants. During the sede vacante, the chamberlain is charged with administering and safeguarding the temporal goods of the church.
Gathered with others in the offices of the “apostolic chamber,” Cardinal Bertone asked the time. At 8 p.m. exactly he was handed a “ferula,” a red velvet-covered scepter, as a sign of his authority. The cardinal led the staff in a brief prayer to God: “Give your church a pope acceptable to you.”
Carrying the ferula, he and his aides went into the private papal apartments. They made sure the door to the small private elevator was locked, then stretched tape across the elevator door and stamped it with seals.
Withdrawing from the apartment, they dead-bolted the main door with a large key, then strung a red ribbon through the handles. An aide, using a glue gun, sealed the ribbon’s knot.
The next day, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, vice chamberlain, went to the seldom-used papal apartments at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope’s cathedral, and sealed those as well, Father Lombardi said.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, wrote almost immediately after 8 p.m. to Vatican nuncios and other diplomatic representatives around the world, officially informing them of the sede vacante.
In one of his first acts as dean March 1, Cardinal Sodano wrote to each of the world’s 207 cardinals — including those over age 80 and ineligible to vote in a conclave — notifying them of “the vacancy of the Apostolic See because of the renunciation presented on the part of Pope Benedict XVI.”
He also asked them to come to the Vatican to begin the pre-conclave meetings, known as general congregations, March 4 at 9:30 a.m.
The general congregations will continue until all the cardinal-electors, including those under 80, are present in Rome, “and then the College of Cardinals will decide the date to enter into conclave” to elect a pope, he said.
Asked whether Cardinal Sodano was saying that a conclave date would not be set until all the cardinal-electors were present or accounted for, Father Lombardi said the letter “does not have the weight of law,” but he expected the cardinals would not vote on a conclave date until most of them were present and had time to talk and meet formally.



By Francis X. Rocca
and Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) –  Pope Benedict XVI’s final trip as pope was a 15-minute helicopter ride from the Vatican to the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo. He was joined in the Italian government chopper by his personal secretary and assistant secretary, his personal physician, his new valet and an official of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household.
Almost all 100 members of the Swiss Guard, dressed in their colorful medieval uniforms, were standing at attention in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace to formally salute the man they had pledged their lives to protect.
For the last three hours of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, the rest of the guards were stationed at the entrances to Vatican City, at the heliport in the Vatican Gardens and at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo.
Joining the Swiss Guards in the courtyard were dozens of bishops, monsignors, priests, nuns and laypeople who work in the Vatican Secretariat of State and other offices nearby.
The pope greeted his vicars for Vatican City and Rome – Cardinals Angelo Comastri and Agostino Vallini – before using his to cane walk down a few steps into the courtyard. He was greeted with applause.
The pope’s driver knelt in front of him, kissed his ring and burst into tears.
As soon as the pope’s car pulled away, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica began tolling their farewell. Driven to the helipad in the Vatican Gardens, his flight to Castel Gandolfo began at 5:07 p.m.
Wednesday, on his last full day as pope, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an unusually personal and emotional farewell address, thanking the faithful around the world for their support and assuring them that he would remain in their service even in retirement.
“I will continue to accompany the path of the church with prayer and reflection, with that dedication to the Lord and to his bride that I have tried to live every day till now and that I want to live always,” the pope told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 27, the eve of his resignation.
Under a clear blue sky with temperatures in the low 40s, the pope arrived for his last public audience shortly after 10:30 a.m., standing and waving for almost 15 minutes as his white popemobile made a circuit through the square. Cheering pilgrims waved national flags and banners with slogans such as “always with the pope” and “you will never be alone.”
The Vatican estimated turnout at 150,000.
The pope spoke about his time as pope and his historic decision to resign. He looked tired but composed as he read his speech, and he smiled at the frequent interruptions by applause.
Pope Benedict recalled his almost eight-year pontificate as a time of “joy and light, but also difficult moments.”
“The Lord has given us so many days of sun and light breeze, days in which the catch of fish has been abundant,” he said, likening himself to St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee.
“There have also been moments in which the waters were turbulent and the wind contrary, as throughout the history of the church, and the Lord seemed to be asleep,” he said. “But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat and that the boat of the church is not mine, it is not ours, but it is his and he does not let it sink.”
The pope, who announced Feb. 11 that he would step down because his “strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” told the crowd that he had made his decision “in full consciousness of its gravity and also novelty, but with profound serenity of soul.”
Although he would be retiring to a life of prayer, meditation and study in a monastery inside Vatican City, he said, he would continue to serve and sacrifice for the church.
“Whoever assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy,” he said. “He belongs always and totally to all, to the whole church.
“My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this,” he said. “I am not returning to private life, a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but remain in a new way beside the crucified Lord. I no longer carry the power of office for the government of the church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s precincts.”
The pope thanked his collaborators in the Vatican, making special mention of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as secretary of state is the highest Vatican official. Cardinal Bertone, who has drawn blame for the mismanagement sensationally documented in the 2012 “VatiLeaks” of confidential correspondence, “has accompanied me faithfully in these years,” the pope said.
The pope thanked the cardinals, some 70 of whom sat near him in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, and who are expected to begin meeting March 4 to plan the election of the next pope. Pope Benedict also voiced his gratitude to other members of the hierarchy, the Vatican diplomatic corps and “all those who work for good communication,” a category presumably including the press.
The conclusion of the pope’s talk set off a two-minute standing ovation.