Cardinals draw lots to settle Vatican guest-house rooms

Mon Mar 11, 2013 11:11am EDT
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By Keith Weir

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Before they get down to the business of choosing a new pope this week, the 115 elector cardinals are holding another ballot - drawing lots to decide which room they get in the Vatican guest house that will be their home during the conclave.

Some will be disappointed, because the five-storey Santa Martha House inside the walls of Vatican City, has only 106 "suites". Despite the grandiose name, these rooms have just a single bed, bathroom and a small desk space.

The nine cardinals who miss out on the suites will have to settle for more spartan single rooms.

However basic the Santa Martha accommodation, it is a step up from where cardinals used to sleep before the guest house was built in 1996 on the orders of Pope John Paul II.

During earlier conclaves, they had makeshift beds in temporary quarters in the Vatican, with curtains often all that divided one space from another, like on a hospital ward.

As well as allocating the rooms fairly, drawing lots is designed to make sure factions from one country or supporting one candidate are given rooms randomly to prevent them consulting on strategy from adjoining parts of the guest house.

Standing empty for the new pope will be the larger but nevertheless simple Room 201, the sole apartment in the yellow-stone residence block.

It has carved wooden fittings and additional rooms to host meetings for the new pontiff, who could live there for a few weeks until the papal Apostolic Palace has been renovated.   Continued...

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Canada walks through Saint Peter's Square as he arrives for a meeting in the Synod Hall at the Vatican March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez