Conclave start seen delayed as Vatican muzzles cardinals

VATICAN CITY Wed Mar 6, 2013 11:15am EST

1 of 14. Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, of the Democratic Republic of Congo (R), and Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz of Brazil arrive for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican March 6, 2013. Catholic cardinals said on Tuesday they wanted time to get to know each before choosing the next pope and meanwhile would seek more information on a secret report on alleged corruption in the Vatican.

Credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION)

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Vatican officials on Wednesday told cardinals gathered for the election of the next pope to stop speaking to the media, as further indications emerged that a conclave would not start early next week as had been expected.

American cardinals who had been scheduled to hold their third media briefing in as many days canceled it less than an hour before it was to have started at Rome's North American College, where they are residing.

A spokeswoman for the American cardinals said "concern" was expressed at Wednesday's closed-door meeting "about leaks of confidential proceedings reported in Italian newspapers".

More than 150 cardinals attended the third day of the preliminary meetings to sketch a profile for the next pope following the shock abdication of Pope Benedict last month. All but two of the 115 "cardinal electors" aged under 80 have arrived for the meetings, the Vatican said.

In their briefings, the American cardinals did not disclose specifics but spoke generally about the proceedings as well as of their hopes and concerns about the state of the Catholic Church at a crucial time in its history.

The preliminary meetings are taking place as the crisis involving sexual abuse of children by priests and inappropriate behavior among adult clerics continues to haunt the Church and has rarely been out of the headlines.

Asked about the cancellation of the U.S. briefing, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pre-conclave meetings, known as general congregations, had to take place in a "climate of confidentiality".

Lombardi said the preparation by the cardinals towards the conclave "is a path in which the college of cardinals reflects in order to reach a decision, in conscience, of each of the members for the election of the Roman Pontiff".

Cardinals from other countries have also been speaking to the media informally on the streets near the Vatican but the Americans were the only group holding daily formal briefings.


The cancellation of the briefing means the only official source of information would come from a daily briefing by the Vatican spokesman.

The spokeswoman for the Americans said: "As a precaution, the (U.S.) cardinals have agreed not to do interviews."

Under Church law the cardinals have until March 20 to start a conclave to choose a new pope to lead the 1.2 billion-member Church.

While many observers had expected the conclave to begin as early as this Sunday or Monday, there have been increasing indications that the cardinals want more time to ponder who among them might be best to lead a Church beset by crises.

Several of the prelates leaving the meetings said preliminary proceedings were still at the early stages and more time would be necessary before they could decide on when to start the conclave in the Sistine Chapel.

Workmen have begun preparing the chapel, building a new, suspended floor to protect the centuries-old tiles.

Nonetheless, the Vatican spokesman said it was important that no one felt "pressured" into going into the conclave before they were ready and that more time would be needed for "reflection".

One cardinal leaving the meeting said there had been no formal discussion on Wednesday of the so-called "Vatileaks" scandal, which led to the arrest of Paolo Gabriele, the pope's butler, further besmirching the Church's reputation.

Gabriele was convicted of stealing personal papal documents and leaking them to the media. The documents alleged corruption and infighting over the running of its bank.

A trio of elderly cardinals prepared a report on the scandal for Benedict, who later pardoned Gabriele, and a number of cardinals attending the preliminary meetings said they wanted to be briefed on the report.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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Comments (7)
GoState wrote:
They’re not going to leak anything to the media, per se. Those Italian cardinals just talk with their hands too much and it freaks the Vatican out. The press can see what they’re saying so long as they have an eye-shot.

Mar 06, 2013 11:35am EST  --  Report as abuse
gerardtn wrote:
these reporters are obsessed with perversions that are 50 years old. seems they are the perverts.

Mar 06, 2013 2:16pm EST  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
“who later pardoned Gabriele.” I’ve been following these articles and that wasn’t mentioned here until now. Good for him!

I don’t know why the Vatican keeps the Renaissance practice of sequestering the Cardinals? I think, theologically speaking, they are trying to pick a candidate without politics so the “Holy Spirit” alone influences their decisions. They must talk to one another in the hotel between sessions? How on earth can they decide otherwise? There must be some way they get to know the abilities, characters and opinions of the members of their college?

I tried to research this issue a year or so ago, and found that the Cardinals, apparently, were really secular (of a sort) civil administrators charged with handling the nuts and bolts issues of church government e.g: the maintenance of the city of Rome’s roads and water supply and their affairs with other European states and all the issues that one could call “brick and mortar” issues, related to their property and revenue streams. They bought their Red Hats the way other ministers in other European courts bought their positions and title and expected to make themselves and their families wealthy from the positions. The popes did too, until recent times. It was a universally accepted practice and the only way “to play the game” of power. They sequestered them from taking bribes and, possibly, to protect them from being murdered. The Italians played very rough. The Bishops never voted for the papacy. Popes had their biases. Some seemed to favor the wealth and power issues, like Alexander VI – the Borgia Pope, and others saw themselves as more spiritual leaders. But when I was a Catholic I didn’t think bishops or cardinals (the same thing now) were able to enrich themselves on church property or donations.

But renaissance practice of bribery and murder isn’t supposed to be the issue now in as much as world governments don’t tax the church and consider them not for profit organizations. Other Christian churches with large organizations have to pick “CEOs” and don’t have to take precautions against cloak and dagger intrigues, so why is the Catholic Church still doing this?

To be sure, it’s a dramatic show with the colored smoke but too much of a show that denies some more mature substance that should be there instead of the drama. The business of the church should be boring and above the sorts of issues and intrigues that require so much secrecy.

The few years I spent attending a local Quaker church – just over a dozen regular members – was an eye opener to this former Catholic. They appointed their own secretary and treasurer and dealt with the church business after the religious part of their meetings. But they do call themselves “friends”. They paid for all the costs themselves, gave receipts for tax purposes, and they were not particularly wealthy and the building was a bit shabby but very charming and nearly 200 years old. The Catholic Church, or for that matter, the Church of England and probably others I never heard about, may not be able to count on “friends” even when they share the same roof and attend the same Sunday Mass? Actually, I’m sure they can’t. Tosca’s Baron Scarpia considered himself a “good Catholic” as much as Tosca did. I’m sure his like still attends mass and is a good financial contributor.

It was so obvious that the Quakers had a better grasp of democratic (or community based) government process than I ever saw practiced in a Catholic Church and they expected their membership to be more responsible and to think for themselves and to be more earnest in the practice of their religion. Catholics tend to think of the Church as a quasi public utility and they were more inclined to do private devotions and prayers rather than build a community the way the Quakers, and especially the Shakers did.

A meager word in the Catholics defense. They aren’t snobs. Their churches don’t seem to get differentiated as “fashionable” or “unfashionable” the way some Protestant churches used to attract membership and reputation on the basis of the wealth of their membership. The only time that seems to happen is when their location determines whether the parish is wealthy or poor and Catholics tend to attend the church in their parish, regardless of their wealth. They also seem least inclined and very conservative about introducing showy religious services except for the architecture and music and what the very old liturgy allows.

I like to think of them as carrying something very “holy” but with dirty hands and feet. But if they ever try to get too fastidious they could loose a lot of their faithful. They so match them. Maybe they should borrow the practice of the hamam (ritual washing before prayer in the mosque) from the Islamic world? I think the old practice of praying at Matins, Lauds, Vespers and Compline (evidently there are three others I never heard of according to the dictionary) came from the Muslim world too? I’ll bet it did, anyway. Now I have to look up “canonical hours”.

Catholic churches can’t fire their clergy. Protestants can. It’s always a matter of “you win some your, loose some”.

Mar 06, 2013 3:21pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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