.- Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls gave a briefing early this afternoon on the fourth General Congregation of cardinals that was held this morning in the Vatican, during which he announced that the conclave to elect the successor of John Paul II will start the afternoon of Monday, April 18.
He said that "the Fourth General Congregations of Cardinals was held this morning in the New Synod Hall in the Vatican, beginning at 10 a.m.
"There were 116 cardinals present, 31 of whom are newly arrived, who swore their prescribed oath. The number of cardinals present in Rome at this moment is 122.
"In today's general congregation the cardinals were informed of both the official delegations coming from throughout the world for the funeral of the Holy Father on Friday morning, and the delegations from diverse Christian denominations and from other religions.
"The cardinals also considered several particular questions relative to the funeral Mass of the Holy Father and the celebrations of the 'novendiali', (nine official days of mourning with a Mass each day for the Holy Father) in particular for the 'cappelle papali' of Saturday, April 9, Tuesday, April 12 and Saturday, April 16.
"Also taken into consideration was the request made by many parties to bring the remains of the Holy Father - on Friday, April 8, following the funeral Mass but before burial - to St. John Lateran Basilica to allow for veneration by the Roman faithful and others who were unable to come to St. Peter's Basilica. After attentively studying the matter it was concluded that this hypothesis was not technically possible. Therefore, as pre-announced, the burial in the Vatican Grottoes will take place immediately after the funeral Mass.
"The Will of the Holy Father was read and it was decided to publish it in its entirety tomorrow in the original Polish language and in an Italian translation.
"The date for the start of the conclave was set for Monday, April 18. In the morning there will be the votive Mass 'pro eligendo papa' in the Vatican Basilica. In early afternoon the cardinals will enter into conclave in the Sistine Chapel.
"I can confirm that the Holy Father John Paul II, before his death, did not communicate the name of the cardinal reserved 'in pectore' in the consistory of October 2003. Therefore, this is no longer a question."
Journalists asked if it would be possible for them to see the Sistine Chapel before the start of the conclave and Navarro-Valls responded by noting that, as there are 3,500 accredited journalists, this would be logistically impossible. He said that a video would be shown to them, featuring all the sites in the Vatican associated with a conclave.