“There is still no date set for the conclave,” stated father Federico Lombardi, director of the press room for the Holy See, even before journalists could start asking questions. Today’s assembly -- the fourth since Monday -- was attended by 113 electoral cardinals out of 115. The archbishop of Warsaw Varsavia Kazimierz Nycz and Vietnamese cardinal Jean-Baptiste Phạm Minh Mẫn, both of whom are expected to reach Rome tomorrow, have yet to arrive. Tomorrow is expected to be a day of frenetic activity: The cardinals will assemble in congregation both in the morning and the afternoon in order to continue to discuss the profile of the new Pope and the future of the Church.
Will the world have a new Pope by Palm Sunday (March 24)? “While we wait, many believe that’s probable. But that’s a hope, not a certainty,” notes father Lombardi.
There were a total 18 interventions during this morning’s assembly. Overall, a total of 51 cardinals have made contributions since the conclave “primaries” began. Among the themes addressed today -- explained father Lombardi -- were the challenges facing the church in the contemporary world (in other words the new evangelization), as well as expectations for the kind of new pope the cardinals will elect. A Eucharistic adoration overseen by the cardinal archpriest of San Pietro, Angelo Comastri, is scheduled to be held this afternoon at 5 p.m. in the San Pietro Basilica, and any cardinals who wish to do so may attend. Furthermore, work has begun on the Sistine Chapel, closed to the public since 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon, in preparation for the conclave. The chapel will be renovated and the pavement will be raised to create a single, uniform level all the way to the altar.
The briefing with U.S. cardinals has been cancelled.
The U.S. cardinals will not hold their press conference today. Journalists had become accustomed to going up Gianicolo hill to attend a sort of secondary press conference held by the North American College of the Gianicolo. Today, cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Episcopalean conference, was scheduled to speak. Dolan is considered the head of the U.S. group here at the Vatican. Over recent days, it became clear that the U.S. cardinals tend to communicate more with the press than their fellow cardinals.
The fact that today’s conference was cancelled undoubtedly reflects discomfort among the other cardinals -- especially those within the curia -- over what is considered an excessive familiarity with the press. When asked about the issue, father Lombardi explained that “the tradition of the conclave and the path towards the conclave is in part a tradition of secrecy designed to protect the ability to reflect and meditate for each member of the conclave.” The spokesperson for the Vatican went on to add that, “therefore it’s possible that the American cardinals decided to rethink their approach to the media after having considered the sentiments and indications from members of the college of cardinals on the whole.”
Father Lombardi: “The cardinals are aware of the importance of this moment.”
This morning, during an interview with Italian radio station “Radio Anch’io,” father Lombardi stated that “the cardinals are entirely aware of the importance of what they are going through.” Lombardi noted that “everyone has been immediately struck by the atmosphere of strong desire that this task be carried out well and carefully.” Over the course of the congregation there will be “a broad overview of the problems that the church is facing in today’s world.” For this reason, continued Lombardi, a general identikit for the next pope is coming “not only through collegial efforts,” but also “through a series of meetings and encounters that individual members of the college of cardinals hold between one another.”
The Italian weekly magazine Famiglia Cristiana has published an agenda for the next pope: “Put an end to the Vatican Bank, support ethics in finance.” The magazine has drawn up a list of the priorities the Church should focus on in order to be a “willing to deal with its growing loss of credibility.” Among the various points on the agenda for the next pope, selected by authoritative exponents from the Catholic world, there is a particularly interesting position concerning the IWR, or Institute for Works of Religion. The article, written by Giorgio Campanini, invites the Vatican to “give up on the IWR,” and open to “ethical banks” instead.
Camparini, a historian and sociologist, writes:
“(An entreaty) that has a strong sway over public opinion, including ecclesiastical opinion, is the request that the Vatican free itself from all connections (and even more so from all compromises) concerning finance. Today there are, both in Italy and in numerous other countries, ethical banking institutions, within which credit is distributed according to extremely severe criteria aimed first and foremost at development projects, and which completely exclude speculative aims. Why not give them, or similar institutions, the responsibility of dealing with the church’s finances (with the exception of a small control and oversight commission)? Complete transparency would reassure the faithful, who continue to make generous offerings, that the money they give to the church, once all the needs connected with the church’s upkeep and maintenance have been fulfilled, will be destined first and foremost to helping the poor people of the world."
In the editorial presented in the dossier, Don Antonio Sciortino, director of Famiglia Cristiana, underlines the “prophetic courage” of Benedict XVI who, “after the scandals and ‘filthiness,’ reconciled the church with believers the world over.” Ratzinger’s decision to leave the papacy “has put the church back on the path to purification, to the request for forgiveness and renewal,” writes Sciortino.
According to the weekly magazine, the challenges that the next pope will have to face include: having the courage of the prophecy, promoting increased unity between faith and life; guaranteeing more transparency in order to close the door on the era of suspicion, finding new words for today’s man, and proceeding with necessary reforms.
The parish priest in Castelvittorio who burned a photograph of the pope is “ready to leave the parish.”
In Castelvittorio, in Italy’s Imperia province, faithful parishioners remain upset over the gesture by Don Andrea Maggi, the parish priest who, last Sunday during the celebration of the eucharist, burned a photograph of the pope emeritus Benedict XVI, accusing him of not being a pastor, and of having abdicated and abandoned his “sheeps.” In a short statement, the Ventimiglia-Sanremo diocese communicated that “Don Maggi has expressed his intention to leave his position as parish priest,” adding that “the appropriate procedures called for in this kind of situation are all being taken into consideration.”
The pope emeritus “grateful” for letter from cardinals.
Yesterday, Benedict XVI (of whom the Italian weekly Chi published the first images of him taking a walk in the gardens in Castel Gandolfo) received a telegram sent to him personally by the cardinals. “The pope emeritus, who has always been an extremely sensitive person and full of gratitude, deeply appreciated this simple, yet spontaneous and honest, sign of affection, support, respect and gratitude,” explained father Federico Lombardi. In the telegram, the cardinals thanked Benedict XVI for his “luminous ministry and the example he has provided of generous pastoral solicitude for the good of the church and the world at large.”
Woman-priest out for a walk in piazza San Pietro in Rome.
This morning, during the “appointment” with the general congregation, visitors to piazza San Pietro were treated to the following amusing scene: a woman dressed up as a priest went walking around the piazza, surprising the faithful. According to several witnesses, this was only the latest in a series of provocations of a group from the liberal front of the church, initiated in light of the conclave and the election of the new pope, and aimed at supporting the creation of female priests.
The woman, a foreigner of approximately 60 years of age, refused to make any statements. She was wearing a priest’s white collar, black pants and shirt. Several faithful and tourists present in the piazza stated that they were stunned to see “yet another form of protest against the prohibition of women priests, especially now in light of the elections for a new pope.” In 2011 a group of 150 priests signed a petition to support the American priest Roy Burgeois, after he publicly stated that he was in favor of allowing women into the order.