The College of Cardinals sent Benedict XVI a message of thanks for his ministry and decided to only hold morning meetings as they prepare for the conclave.
“The Cardinal Fathers, gathered at the Vatican for the General Congregations in view of the next conclave, send you their devoted greetings and express their renewed gratitude for all your illustrious Petrine ministry and for your example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world,” reads the telegram that was sent to Benedict XVI.
The idea was first proposed on March 4 at the first meeting of the cardinals. It was sent via telegram the following day to the Pope Emeritus at Castel Gandolfo.
The cardinals also said that they hope their gratitude will “represent the recognition of the entire Church for your tireless work in the vineyard of the Lord.”
The message concludes by saying “the members of the College of Cardinals trust in your prayers for them, as well as for the whole Church.”
The College of Cardinals still has not chosen a date for the beginning of the conclave to elect the next Pope. As of Tuesday afternoon, five cardinals were still not yet in Rome.
Vatican press office director Father Federico Lombardi told journalists March 5 that all of the remaining cardinals had informed the College of their travel plans. The full number of cardinals who will vote for the next Pope is expected to be 115.
During the cardinals’ second March 4 meeting, they decided not to hold additional afternoon meetings. This will allow the cardinals to have more time to get together informally to discuss the needs of the Church and who the next Pope might be.
At their March 5 assembly, 11 different interventions were made by cardinals on topics that included the activities of the Holy See, the relationship between the various Vatican departments and the bishops around the world, the renewal of the Church in the light of Vatican II, efforts to engage in the New Evangelization in different parts of the world, and the relationship of the Church in the different cultures.
The gathering went from 9:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. and had 148 cardinals present. Of that number, 110 are cardinals who will be able to vote for the next pontiff.
At the very end of today’s gathering the cardinals agreed to hold public Eucharistic adoration and Vespers at 5:00 p.m. on March 6 in St. Peter’s Basilica. Fr. Lombardi explained that the intention is to provide an opportunity for the cardinals and the whole Church to enter into this time of decision with prayer.