Cardinals begin pre-conclave meetings at Vatican
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The College of Cardinals began their formal pre-conclave meetings March 4 with 142 members present, 103 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to enter the conclave to vote for a new pope.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the cardinals did not set a date for the conclave to begin and were unlikely to set a date until the 115 cardinal-electors expected were all present and until the cardinals felt conﬁdent they knew how much time they wanted for discussions beforehand.
One of the ﬁrst decisions made by the cardinals was to authorize the drafting of a message to Pope Benedict XVI, Father Lombardi said. He did not know when the text would be completed and approved. The cardinals also voted to listen that evening to Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, give the ﬁrst of two meditations required by church law before a conclave.
The rules for electing a pope require the cardinals to choose two churchmen, “known for their sound doctrine, wisdom and moral authority” to present meditations “on the problems facing the church at the time and on the need for careful discernment in choosing the new pope.”
Father Cantalamessa also gave the ﬁrst meditation in 2005 after the death of Blessed John Paul II.
After praying for the presence of the Holy Spirit, the cardinals and those assisting them at the meetings took an oath of secrecy. During the pre-conclave meetings, known as general congregations, the cardinals have the services of translators working in Italian, Spanish, English, French and German, as well as ushers and other aides. Read the full story.