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Vatican Briefing on the Conclave

Climate Among Cardinals: "One of Great Familiarity"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 18, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls' briefing to journalists on Saturday on the imminent conclave.

* * *

On Monday, April 18, 115 cardinals from 52 countries representing five continents will begin the first conclave of the third millennium to elect the 264th successor of St Peter: in other words the 265th Pope in the history of the Catholic Church.

The cardinals will move into the Domus Sanctae Marthae tomorrow afternoon, Sunday, April 17. They will all meet together for dinner.

As previously announced, the Mass "for the election of the Supreme Pontiff" will be celebrated in the Vatican Basilica at 10 a.m. on Monday morning. At 4:30 p.m. on Monday, the procession of cardinal electors will leave the Hall of Blessings for the Sistine Chapel. This ritual will be transmitted live on television.

Once in the Sistine Chapel, all the cardinal electors will swear the oath. The cardinal dean will read the formula of the oath, after which each cardinal, stating his name and placing his hand on the Gospel, will pronounce the words: "I promise, pledge and swear."

Over these days, there has been frequent talk of the bond of secrecy concerning the election of the Pope. However, I would like to reiterate that this is just part of the oath. First of all, an oath is made to observe the prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis"; then another oath is made that -- and I quote -- 'whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the 'munus Petrinum' of Pastor of the Universal Church.'

After the oath, the master of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff pronounces the "extra omnes," and all those who do not participate in the conclave leave the Sistine Chapel. Only the master of Liturgical Celebrations and Cardinal Tomas Spidlik remain for the meditation, once that has finished they too leave the Sistine Chapel.

During the conclave, the cardinals will have the following timetable: at 7:30 a.m., the celebration or concelebration of Mass will take place in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. By 9 a.m., they will be in the Sistine Chapel. There they will recite the Lauds of the Liturgy of the Hours and, immediately afterward, voting will take place according to the prescribed ritual -- two votes in the morning, and two votes in the afternoon.

In the afternoon, voting will begin at 4 p.m. At the end of the second vote will be vespers.

After the two votes of the morning and the two of the afternoon, respectively, the ballots and any notes the cardinals have made will be burnt in a stove located inside the Sistine Chapel. Purely as an indication then, the smoke signals could appear at around 12 noon and at about 7 p.m. -- unless the new Pope is elected either in the first vote of the morning or the first vote of the afternoon, in which case the smoke signal will be earlier.

In any case it is expected that, along with the white smoke, the bells of St. Peter's will sound to mark a successful election.

You know well the indications of the apostolic constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis" as far as the voting goes. The valid quorum for electing the Pope is initially two thirds. After three days of voting without an election, there will be a day at the most dedicated to reflection and prayer, without voting.

Thereafter, voting will resume for seven additional ballots, another pause for reflection, another seven ballots, another pause and yet another seven ballots. After which an absolute majority will decide how to proceed, that is, for either a vote by the absolute majority or with balloting between two candidates.

This will happen only in the event that the cardinals arrive at the 33rd or 34th ballot without a positive result.

As far as the first vote on Monday, the cardinals will decide whether or not to vote after they have entered into conclave on Monday afternoon, April 18. The location for the conclave is the Domus Sanctae Marthae and the Sistine Chapel.

The route, along the street behind the Vatican basilica, can be followed by the cardinals on foot or, if some prefer, by bus. Naturally this path will be clear of people. Access to the San Damaso courtyard will be sealed.

These days tourists will not have access to either the dome of St. Peter's or the Vatican Gardens. It will, however, be possible for pilgrims to visit the tomb of John Paul II during the hours the Vatican Grottoes are open.

The General Congregations of the cardinals conclude today. At the end of these encounters I wish to add two brief notes.

The climate of these congregations has been one of great familiarity. This has been perhaps an expression of the great responsibility that all the cardinals feel at this time. That allowed them to find great consensus on the general themes faced in the discussions.

I can also confirm that in no congregation were names ever brought up.

[Translation of Italian original issued by the Vatican press office]

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