Cardinals to begin voting Tuesday on selection of pope

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VATICAN CITY -- The conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI will begin Tuesday afternoon, after a morning Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

The precise times haven't been set, but the cardinals likely will be inside the Sistine Chapel by late morning Pittsburgh time. They will enter the conclave just 12 days after Pope Benedict XVI abdicated, taking advantage of his last-minute rule change that gave them the option of starting earlier than the previously required 15 days after the papacy was vacated.

About 150 cardinals have been meeting since Monday. Only 115 of them were under 80 and therefore eligible to vote. They will meet again today.

More than 100 cardinals have given short speeches on what they want to see in a pope, according to the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who attends the meetings and is permitted to give vague summaries. Friday topics included inter-religious dialogue, bioethics, social justice, the importance of proclaiming God's love and mercy, collegiality -- the relationship among bishops -- and the role of women in the church.

Father Lombardi did not elaborate on any of those, including the latter. But he arrived at the news conference with a large bouquet of flowers that he presented to a female reporter in honor of International Women's Day. As is customary on that day "The Holy See offers flowers to many of the different women working there," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, who gives summaries of the Italian news conference in English and French.

The meetings of the cardinals have been formal, with cardinals signing up to make five-minute speeches on the topic of their choice. There had been reports that many cardinals wanted a different process, used by some religious orders to identify potential new superiors, in which they would work the room having 10-minute one-on-one conversations on what the church needed and who might make a good pope. That apparently did not happen during the official meetings.

But Father Lombardi and -- prior to the media blackout -- Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., pointed out that there were long coffee breaks when the cardinals could speak informally.

With 115 electors, 77 votes will be required for the two-thirds majority. At this point in the run-up to the 2005 conclave the Italian newspapers were reporting a big push for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was then elected. This time there is reportedly more tension, particularly between the traditionally powerful Vatican cardinals and many of the diocesan cardinals who want to see the Vatican bureaucracy reformed.

According to two Italian newspapers, La Stampa and La Repubblica, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the college of cardinals and the former secretary of state, is backing two South Americans of recent European heritage for pope and secretary of state. Both worked for many years in the Vatican.

For pope he and some other Vatican cardinals are said to back Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, 63, of Sao Paolo, a Brazilian of German heritage who worked in the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops from 1994 to 2001. As his secretary of state they would reportedly like to see Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, 69, an Argentinian of Italian heritage who was the former "substitute" or chief of staff at the Vatican and most recently headed its office for Eastern Churches.

Cardinal Sandri is also rumored to be a papal contender in his own right.

But American and European cardinals who want to see a major overhaul of the Vatican bureaucracy are reported to be giving serious consideration to Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71, of Milan, an intellectual heavyweight known for his dialogue with Muslim leaders, who has never held a full-time post at the Vatican.

The newspapers suggest that if there is impasse between the Scherer and Scola camps, other candidates may emerge. They suggest that the leading contenders would be Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary, 60, who was twice elected president of the European Bishop's Conference, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68, a Canadian scripture scholar who was formerly archbishop of Quebec and most recently head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.

As a dark horse they suggest Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Sri Lanka, a papal diplomat who formerly worked in the Vatican's Worship Office, where he championed revival of the Latin Mass and excoriated communion in the hand.

All of that remains speculation, and some American cardinals said privately before the news blackout that they considered the election wide open and expected a significantly longer conclave than in 2005. Pope Benedict was elected within 24 hours, on the fourth ballot.

Meanwhile, workers were installing electronic jamming devices in the Sistine Chapel to prevent information leaks and applying opaque film onto the windows of the House of St. Martha. The film is needed to prevent the people and news media from seeing inside the building.

The latter is a modern guest residence with 128 suites and rooms where the cardinals will sleep during the conclave. Their room assignments will be chosen by lot so they don't gather in voting blocs, though they are free to sit and speak with whomever they want at dinner.

Suite 201, the VIP suite, is reserved for the new pope after his election. He may have to stay there for several weeks while the papal apartments are unsealed and some renovations done, Father Rosica said.

Adjacent to the House of St. Martha and open only to its residents is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, designed by Pittsburgh architect Lou Astorino. The A-frame chapel is formed from a series of triangles, representing the Trinity. The video showed contemporary bas relief stations of the cross and confessionals where priests will be available to hear confessions from the cardinals during the conclave period.

Those priests, along with some doctors, liturgists, food service workers and housekeepers, will remain inside the residence during the conclave but are forbidden, on pain of automatic excommunication, to reveal anything they see or hear.

While the cardinals may pray and go to confession in the chapel, it hasn't been decided whether they will concelebrate Mass there or in the Pauline Chapel, which is next to the Sistine. The Pauline is the traditional site, but the Holy Spirit Chapel was used during the 2005 conclave because the Pauline was under renovation.

"This time it is most likely to be in the Pauline Chapel," Father Rosica said.

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Ann Rodgers: or 412-263-1416.


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