Conclave: the secretive end to unannounced campaigns

Mon Mar 11, 2013 11:11am EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The conclave to pick a Roman Catholic pope is the dramatic final stage of a secretive election process that quietly began weeks, months or even years ago.

Some of the 115 cardinals who file into the Sistine Chapel for the election on Tuesday have been "papabile" - a possible pope - for years. Other names have surfaced only since Pope Benedict announced on February 11 that he would resign.

All of them, whether they seek the job or are put forward less willingly, will be subject to the same unpredictable dynamics that make conclaves among the most mysterious elections in the world.

Archbishop Piero Marini, master of ceremonies for the 2005 conclave, dated the start of pre-election canvassing this time round to February 28, when he saw cardinals chatting in small groups after bidding farewell to Pope Benedict in the Vatican.

"That's when the preparation for the new pope began," he told journalists while explaining the conclave rituals last week.

Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli said one of the main candidates, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, had prepared for years. He cited Oasis, a Christian-Muslim dialogue network Scola launched in 2004, as a platform that has boosted his chances.

"Scola is very smart and he has built his campaign for this conclave very carefully," he said. "Now he is much better known internationally than the other Italians."

Oasis, a Venice-based foundation respected for its work with the Muslim world, is much more than just a campaign vehicle, and has surely helped Scola burnish his international credentials.   Continued...

Workers put up a red curtain on the central balcony, called the Loggia of the Blessings, of Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March11, 2013. Roman Catholic Cardinals will begin their conclave inside the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday to elect a new pope. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez