VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although by March 6 the world’s cardinals had not set a date to begin the conclave to elect a new pope, they had begun discussing “the profile” required of the next pope to meet the needs of the church, the Vatican spokesman said.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, like everyone in the hall for the cardinals’ meetings, takes an oath of secrecy, although he is allowed to give the press an idea of the broad themes discussed.
During the March 6 session, he said, 18 cardinals spoke and the principal themes were: “The church in the world today and the needs for the new evangelization; the Holy See, the Roman Curia and their relationship with the bishops; the expectations for and a profile of the future pope that result from these expectations of the world and the needs for the good governing of the church.”
All but two of the 115 cardinal electors expected to enter the conclave were present at the meeting, Father Lombardi said. Polish Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw was expected to arrive later that day, and Vietnamese Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City was expected March 7.
At a news briefing, Father Lombardi was asked repeatedly about the “delay” in setting and announcing a date, and whether it indicated divisions among the cardinals.
“One senses strongly within the College (of Cardinals) the desire for an adequate, serious, profound preparation, not hurried. So in this situation it still has not seemed opportune to put a date for the conclave to a vote,” he said.
Moving too quickly to a vote, he said, “could seem to many like forcing” the issue, rather than “respecting the dynamic of reflection and maturation” of ideas on the part of the cardinals.
In addition, he said, all the electors will not be present until March 7, so it could be “more respectful and natural” to await their arrival before setting a date.
Father Lombardi was asked if the cardinals wanted more time in the general congregations to discuss the needs of the church in the hopes that the conclave itself would be shorter.
“It would be difficult to say there is a direct connection between the breadth of the preparation and the brevity of the conclave. That remains to be seen,” he said.
But, he said, the cardinals have said they want a thorough preparation, “which will facilitate arriving at the decisive moment of the conclave with a clearer idea, a more mature process that will facilitate their commitment in voting. How much time the first and second phases will require, I have no idea,” he said.
Father Lombardi told reporters that during the day’s three-hour meeting, the cardinals were asked to limit their speeches in the hall to five minutes, although unlike at the Synod of Bishops’ meetings, no one turns the microphone off if a cardinal goes over.
He also said another sign that the conclave’s beginning is not just a day or two away is the fact that the cardinals still have not drawn lots for their suites or single bedrooms in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where they will stay during the conclave.