“The atmosphere was very serene, positive and intense. It was constructive and reflects a spirit concern for the Church throughout the world,” Father Federico Lombardi said March 4.
The first general congregation began precisely at 9:30 a.m. and commenced with the cardinals reciting the Veni Sancti Spiritus, Veni Creator and Adsumus prayers.
There were 142 cardinals present, and of those 103 were cardinal electors. There are still 12 cardinals who are in the process of travelling to Rome and they are expected to arrive in the next two days.
Fr. Lombardi said that no decision was made today about the date of the conclave and pointed out that not all of the cardinals are present yet.
After the opening prayers, the cardinals took an oath to “maintain rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff.” They recited a part of the oath together and then individually processed to the front of the hall to take the rest of it with their hand on the Bible.
As the gathering began to consider business matters, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of the Cardinals, proposed sending a message to Benedict XVI and the idea was warmly received. According to Fr. Lombardi, the letter is being prepared and will be finalized this afternoon.
Between 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. the cardinals had the opportunity to make interventions, most of which revolved around whether or not to have an afternoon session, as they will later today at 5:00 p.m.
The cardinals will receive a meditation at their evening session from the Preacher for the Papal Household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.
According to the apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis,” which governs the process of electing a new Pope, the cardinals will also have a second meditation delivered just before the beginning of the conclave.
The cardinals of the Catholic Church gathered for their first general meeting this morning to take an oath of secrecy, pray and begin discussing some of the logistics to elect a new Pope.
Conclave, College of Cardinals, General Congregations