.- The Vatican announced yesterday that the College of Cardinals, now gathered in Rome to elect the Church’s 265th pope, will begin their conclave on April 18th.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Holy See Press Director, made the announcement following the fourth General Congregation of cardinals, held yesterday at the Vatican. Presently, 117 cardinals gathered from around the world will choose the successor to Pope John Paul II.
Navarro-Valls said yesterday that, "There were 116 cardinals present [at the General Congregation], 31 of whom are newly arrived, who swore their prescribed oath.”
"In today's general congregation”, he continued, “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 press director noted that, "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.
Many in Rome had hoped that John Paul’s body would be brought to St. John Lateran Basilica on Friday--after the funeral but before the burial—for those who were unable to venerate it this week at St. Peter’s Basilica.
“After attentively studying the matter”, Navarro-Valls said, “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 cardinals also read the Will of the Holy Father yesterday morning and have decided to publish it today in both its original Polish and in also the Italian language.
Navarro-Valls said that the first day of the conclave would begin with a “votive Mass 'pro eligendo papa' in the Vatican Basilica. In early afternoon the cardinals will enter into conclave in the Sistine Chapel.”
The Vatican spokesman added that before his death, the Holy Father “did not communicate the name of the cardinal reserved 'in pectore' in the consistory of October 2003.”
Bishops and cardinals ministering in politically or otherwise dangerous areas are sometimes ordained secretly, or ‘in pectore’ so as to assure their safety and the continuity of the Church in those regions.
“Therefore,” Navarro-Valls said, “this is no longer a question."