Vatican: Cardinals eager for conclave

Most of Tuesday will be devoted to ritual, including taking oaths of secrecy


VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is reporting a good spirit among the College of Cardinals as members prepare to elect a new pope, saying that the decision to begin the conclave on Tuesday was overwhelming.

Despite reports in some news media about dissension over the date, Tuesday was the only day proposed, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. The vote, with 145 cardinals present, was by a 10-1 margin, he said. It occurred earlier than expected on Friday because the cardinals told the dean of the college, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, that they were eager to set the date.

It was “the fruit of a long week of reflection and study together. They got to know one another,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, in an English summary of Father Lombardi’s response. “They felt that the time was right to call it, so that was a very positive sign.”

Cardinals continued to give short speeches about the future of the church on Friday and Saturday, and also will do so on Monday.

Only 115 of the cardinals are under 80 and eligible to vote for the successor of Pope Benedict XVI, who abdicated on Feb. 28.

Workmen set the special copper chimney atop the Sistine Chapel on Saturday. Although it looks tiny next to the soaring edifice of St. Peter’s Basilica, the pipe was considerably taller than the man who installed it.

In past elections, the chemicals that turn the smoke black, signifying a pope has not been elected, produced confusing, gray results. Father Lombardi said it would be tested before the conclave.

“But we aren’t going to do that in a public way because it might arouse too much interest and excitement,” he added.

Early Tuesday morning, the cardinals will move into the House of St. Martha, a large Vatican guest residence. At 10 a.m. Tuesday, they will celebrate a Mass for the Election of a Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica. Rome is five hours ahead of Toledo because Italy won’t be on Daylight-Saving Time until March 31.

At 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, the cardinals will either walk or ride minibuses from the House of St. Martha to the Apostolic Palace, where they will gather in the Pauline Chapel.

At 4:30 p.m., they will formally process down a wide corridor to the Sistine Chapel.

After taking oaths of secrecy, they will hear a required meditation from Cardinal Prospero Grech, 87, an Augustinian New Testament professor, on their responsibility to act only for the good of the worldwide church. If there is time, they will vote once before evening prayers. They are scheduled to leave the Sistine Chapel at 7:30 p.m.

On subsequent days, the cardinals will enter the Sistine Chapel at 9:30 a.m. and vote twice before breaking for lunch at 12:30 p.m. They will return in the late afternoon and begin voting at 4:50 p.m. After the second ballot of the afternoon, they will close with Vespers at 7:15.

Unless a pope is elected earlier in the day, smoke will rise from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel only after the second votes each morning and afternoon, at approximately noon and 7 p.m. If someone is elected on a first ballot, smoke could rise as early as 10:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m.

A Web site run by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students at is offering text or e-mail alerts when white smoke rises.