Papal vote preparations start in earnest at Vatican

Sun Mar 3, 2013 6:28pm EST
 
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Preparations for electing Roman Catholicism's new leader begin in earnest on Monday as the College of Cardinals opens daily talks to sketch an identikit for the next pope and ponder who among them might fit it.

The idea is to have the new pope elected during next week and officially installed several days later so he can preside over the Holy Week ceremonies starting with Palm Sunday on March 24 and culminating in Easter the following Sunday.

The general congregations, closed-door meetings in the interregnum between a papacy and the conclave to choose the next one, will hold morning and afternoon sessions in an apparent effort to discuss as much as possible in a short time.

The list of challenges facing the crisis-hit Church could take weeks to debate, but the Vatican seems keen to have only a week of talks so the 115 cardinal electors -- those under 80 -- can enter the Sistine Chapel for the conclave next week.

High on the agenda will be Church governance after last year's Vatileaks scandal exposed corruption and rivalries in the Vatican's Curia bureaucracy. Cardinals expect to be briefed on a secret report to the pope on the problems it highlighted.

"We should know about some things we don't have enough information about because of our work or the distance (from Rome)," Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga told Italian television.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston in Texas, noted more than half the cardinal electors had been named since the now retired Pope Benedict was chosen in 2005 and had to find out how this most secretive of elections is conducted.

"Part of this is learning," he told journalists. Cardinals over 80 can attend the general congregations and discuss issues with the electors, but not take part in the conclave itself.   Continued...

 
A statue is silhouetted in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican March 3, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi