Cardinals Move towards Selection of New Pope.
Vatican officials said the Sistine Chapel, the traditional location of the conclave that chooses the pope, would close at 1 p.m. on Tuesday in preparation for the gathering of the cardinals who will elect Benedict's successor, the New York Times reported.
The starting date for the conclave is expected to be chosen in the next few days.
So far, 107 cardinals under age 80 - and therefore eligible to elect the pope - have arrived in Rome. Eight more are expected.
Scores of cardinals who are over 80 are also taking part in preliminary meetings, called general congregations, in the Paul VI hall straddling the border between the Vatican City state and Italian territory. The meetings began on Monday, four days after Benedict, now called pope emeritus, went into seclusion in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, outside of Rome, as his resignation came into effect at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28.
On Monday, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who holds the title of preacher of the papal household, gave a religious address to the cardinals, who are sworn to secrecy.
The Vatican's rules on papal transition stipulate that the cardinals hear two such meditations. The contents were not released.
The pre-conclave gatherings will offer the cardinals a chance to make a case for the kind of pope they want, and to size one another up at coffee breaks and later over dinner.
All have emphasized in interviews over the past week that they want a prayerful pope who can effectively transmit the Catholic message.
No afternoon sessions were planned for Tuesday and Wednesday, the Vatican said, a sign that the cardinals wanted more free time to meet informally.
Nuances of what they seek are already emerging. Some say they want a pope capable of reforming the bureaucracy of the Vatican, which has been hit with accusations of corruption in the past year. Others suggest a pope must come from the Third World, where Roman Catholicism is more vibrant than Europe. Still others want a pope with a strong governing hand.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago suggested that questions may arise among the cardinals about a secret report by three senior cardinals on corruption and leaks within the Vatican bureaucracy, or Curia, that was ordered by Benedict and consigned to his successor.
The three authors of the report are present at the congregation and will be available to answer questions from those who want more insight and information about the contents of the secret dossier.
"I imagine that as we move along, there will be questioning of the cardinals involved in the governing of the Curia to see what they think has to be changed," Cardinal George said. "Anything can come up."
Cardinal George said the cardinals wanted to have a pope before the start of Holy Week, which is Palm Sunday on March 24, but would not be rushed.
"We'll take the time necessary to do the job well," he said.
The Vatican's media managers appear to be making an effort to be more open about what is by definition a highly secretive process.
Telepace, an Italian-based Catholic television station, showed the cardinals going into the hall live on Monday. The Vatican has promised daily news conferences.
"Perhaps they decided that it's best to talk to the press rather than not talk to the press," Cardinal George said.
Much of Monday's session, which began at 9:30 a.m., was taken up with each man walking to the front table for the personal oath. At 11 a.m., they took a half-hour break. "It was an important moment for personal contacts, for exchanges at a more particular level," Father Lombardi said. Several cardinals spoke during a brief session, but mainly about logistical matters.
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