Cardinals End Pre-Conclave Talks


New York Times

April 16, 2005

ROME, April 16 - The cooks and elevator operators have been sworn in. A smokestack has been placed on the Sistine Chapel's roof. And the cardinals who will elect Pope John Paul II's successor held their last formal meeting on Saturday.

Most of the details have been tied up ahead of Monday's conclave, the secret gathering at which the princes of the church will choose a pope.

Saturday marked the end of the official nine days of mourning for John Paul that began with his funeral on April 8.

Joaquín Navarro-Valls, John Paul's longtime spokesman, said the cardinals had conducted their final gathering on Saturday morning in an atmosphere of "great familiarity."

"This has been perhaps an expression of the great responsibility that all the cardinals feel at this time," he said.

The meetings, called general congregations, took place daily. The cardinals used them to discuss the church and the direction it should take, as well as conclave logistics.

Dr. Navarro-Valls said individual candidates for the papacy were not discussed. But several cardinals, their aides and Vatican analysts have all said that such discussions were liberally taking place outside of the meetings.

Dr. Navarro-Valls said that the cardinals' procession into the Sistine Chapel on Monday would be televised by the Vatican, along with their taking the oath of secrecy and obedience to the rules of papal succession.

He said Vatican security officials had ensured that there would be no leaks about the highly secretive proceedings, and hinted that measures had been taken to prevent cellphone reception. "Try testing them when you go into the Sistine Chapel," he told reporters who were to be given a special tour Saturday.