VATICAN CITY – “At the fourth General Congregation, which began this morning at 9:00am with the prayer of the Liturgy of Hours, 153 cardinals were present. This number includes four additional cardinals who arrived and were sworn in today, three Cardinal electors: Cardinal Antonios Naguib, patriarch emeritus of Alexandria, Egypt; Cardinal Karl Lehmann, bishop of Mainz, Germany; Cardinal John Tong Hon, bishop of Hong Kong, China; as well as Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, archbishop emeritus of Munich, Germany who is not an elector,” said Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office.
Vatican City prepares to select new Pontiff
To date, there are 113 Cardinal electors present. Tomorrow the two remaining Cardinal electors are expected—Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, archbishop of Warsaw, Poland, will arrive this afternoon and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, archbishop of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam tomorrow morning.
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“In the fraternal spirit that characterizes the Congregations,” Fr. Lombardi reported, “Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano wished a happy birthday to Cardinal Walter Kasper (who turned 80 yesterday), Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio (who turns 75 today), and Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval, C.SS.R., (who turns 77 tomorrow). Cardinal Kasper continues to be a Cardinal elector—he will be the oldest to cast his vote in this Conclave—because the Apostolic Constitution regulating the procedure for electing the pontiff establishes the age limit for cardinals entering the Conclave to be determined from the beginning of the period of the Sede Vacante.
This morning 18 cardinals addressed the gathering. Without going into details, the director of the Holy See Press office gave a general overview of their nature. “The major theme,” Fr. Lombardi said, “was the Church in the world, the New Evangelization. Other topics included the Holy See, its Dicasteries and relations with bishops. A third theme was a profile of expectations for the next pope in view of the good government of the Church.”
“There have been 51 speeches since the beginning of the Congregations,” he added. Given the large number of cardinals wishing to address the gathering, a five minute time limit was established but is not strictly enforced. It was decided that tomorrow they will meet in a morning as well as an afternoon session.
Regarding the cancelling of the press conferences that some of the American cardinals were giving in these days, Fr. Lombardi observed that “the Congregations are not a synod or a congress in which we try to report the most information possible, but a path toward arriving at the decision of electing the Roman Pontiff. In this sense, the tradition of this path is one of reservation in order to safeguard the freedom of reflection on the part of each of the members of the College of Cardinals who has to make such an important decision. It does not surprise me, therefore, that along this path there were, at the beginning, moments of openness and communication and that afterwards, in harmony with the rest of the College, it has been established whether and how to communicate.”
Also brought up in the press conference was the date of the opening of the Conclave. “The College has a great spirit of preparation that is serious, profound, and unhurried,” Fr. Lombardi clarified. “Perhaps that is why it still did not seem opportune to take a vote on the date of the Conclave, which a large part of the College could sense as something forced in the dynamic of reflection. It also needs to be kept in mind that some cardinals are still arriving and it would be a sign of respect for them to wait until the College is complete.”
In conclusion, the director of the Holy See Press Office confirmed that “the Fisherman’s Ring has been scratched over,” that is, rendered unusable.