Cardinals converge on Vatican City

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VATICAN CITY -- Priests who briefed the media at the Vatican press office today said a profile of the next pope is beginning to emerge as cardinals from around the world speak up in their pre-conclave meetings.

According to the Rev. Thomas Rosica, who translated the briefing by the Rev. Federico Lombardi into English, issues raised in short addresses by 51 cardinals included the role of the church in the wider world, efforts to bring the faith to secularized people, the Vatican and its bureaucracy and the relationship between the Vatican and diocesan bishops.

This helped to shape a vision of "what are the expectations and hopes for the next pope," Father Rosica said.

No date has been chosen yet for a conclave to vote for the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, but all the cardinals necessary to vote on that decision are expected to be present by Thursday.

The biggest news to break during the Vatican press conference, however, was the cancellation of all further press conferences by the American cardinals at the North American College. Those briefings had been more popular than the Vatican press conferences -- at which reporters who aren't normally assigned to the Vatican cannot ask questions.

In response to numerous question about whether the Vatican Press Office or the cardinals had ordered the United States bishops to stop talking to the media, Father Lombardi said he had no power to give such orders.

He speculated that since no other cardinals were holding press conferences, the Americans had decided to stop talking.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. bishops and organizer of the press conference, sent an e-mail to reporters saying that the American cardinals had responded to concerns raised by other cardinals in their pre-conclave meetings, called general congregations.

"Concern was expressed in the General Congregation about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers," she wrote. "As a precaution, the cardinals have agreed not to do interviews."

The offending information was a report in the Italian newpaper La Stampa quoting various cardinals on what was said in their closed meetings. None of it was from the American press conferences.

"There was no indication that it came from an American and clearly it did not," Sister Mary Ann said.

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Ann Rodgers: or 412-263-1416.


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