03/04/2013, 00.00
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Cardinals’ message to Benedict XVI, date of Conclave still to be decided

The first General Congregation this morning dedicated to swearing of oath and organizational issues. All present swear to comply with the rules for the election of the pope and to maintain secrecy. 103 voters have already arrived, the others should arrive between now and tomorrow afternoon.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The College of Cardinals will send a message to Benedict XVI and only "in the coming days" will decide the date of Conclave: there are a few cardinals who want it scheduled "more quickly" and others in favor of more time for congregations, while there are others still who have yet to arrive and will have to "get their bearings", the dean "will see when the time is ripe to address the issue".  Which no one expects him to do before Wednesday. These are the most important issues to emerge from the daily briefing by Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, who reported on the first meeting of the General Congregation of Cardinals.

It started at 9.30 am, with 142 cardinals present, 65 absent. The cardinal voters already  count 103, 12 are still absent, only two are "not expected" to participate, if other think they will not come for health or other reasons they have yet to communicate their non-participation. Those absent are due to arrive between now and tomorrow afternoon.

Everything is taking place in accordance with the Romano Pontifici eligendo: the Congregation was presided by the Cardinal Dean, Angelo Sodano. The cardinals gathered in the New Synod, which is above the Paul VI hall and are seated in the order of precedence. After a prayer, they were given technical information to "become familiar with the hall." There was a greeting from the Cardinal Dean who stressed the importance of the event and then first together they swore the and then one at a time. They all vowed their compliance with the requirements contained in the Romano Pontifici eligendo and to maintain secrecy. As they arrive, the absent, will also swear before the congregation.

There was then the drawing of lots to decide the three assistants of the Cardinal Camerlengo, Tarcisio Bertone, in the particular congregations, which deal with the management of ordinary business during the Vacant See.  One for each order was drawn, cardinal Re for bishops, Cardinal Seppe for priests and Cardinal Rodé for deacons. For three days they will be the assistants to the camerlegno, then there will be a new drawing of lots.

This afternoon, according to a proposal by the camerlegno, will be held the first of two planned meditations offered to the fathers according to the Constitution. According to a certain tradition it will be held by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa. It has not yet been decided who will lead the second.

Again this morning, there was a break of about half an hour for coffee, which is also an opportunity for "contacts, meetings, exchange." After the break, from 11.45 to 12.30 there were individual interventions: 13 "brief, dense, very precise," addresses which also aimed to give an idea on the organization of these days. For example, if the meetings will be held only in the morning or, like today, also in the afternoon.

The meeting was held in an "calm, constructive and positive atmosphere " with a clear "desire to actively participate" in an intense way, to determine the criteria for the selection of the new pope. Responding to a question, Father Lombardi reiterated that the fact that Benedict XVI is still alive "does not seem to affect the manner of proceeding of the Congregation in any way ".


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