Vatican City, 5 March 2013 (VIS) – Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, in this afternoon's press conference, gave updated information on the development of the General Congregations.
“On Monday afternoon from 5:00pm until 7:00pm,” he said, “the second General Congregation of the College of Cardinals took place, during which Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., preacher of the Pontifical Household, gave the first of the meditations provided for by the Apostolic Constitution.”
“Additionally, a further five Cardinal electors who had arrived in Rome swore the oath: Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, O.M.M., patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon; Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, Germany; Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Berlin, Germany; Cardinal Théodore-Adrien Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, Senegal; and Cardinal Dominik Jaroslav Duka, O.P., archbishop of Prague, Czech Republic.”
The cardinals are free to address the gathering, having only to sign up and then presenting in the order that they have signed in. Nine cardinals spoke and it was also decided that, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Congregations will only be held in the morning.
Referring to the third Congregation that took place this morning from 9:30am until 12:40pm, Fr. Lombardi reported that three Cardinal electors—Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid; Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education; and Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, archbishop emeritus of Lagos, Nigeria—and four cardinals who are over the age of 80 arrived and swore the oath. In total there were 148 cardinals present.
There were 11 speeches given by cardinals representing each of the continents and the topics discussed were: activities of the Holy See and its relations with bishops throughout the world; Church renewal in light of Vatican Council II; the Church's position and the need for the New Evangelization in today's world with its diverse cultural environments. Number 37 of Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio concerning the beginning of the Conclave was presented to the prelates but no decision regarding its date was made.
There was also a proposal, endorsed by the Particular Congregation, to dedicate tomorrow afternoon to prayer in St. Peter's Basilica. The Cardinal Dean, Angelo Sodano, will lead the prayers. This initiative will also serve as an invitation to the entire Church to pray at this important moment. The ceremony is open to the public so any faithful who so desire may attend.
In conclusion, the text of a telegram for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, which was signed by Cardinal Dean Sodano, was approved. It reads: “To His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Castel Gandolfo.”
“The Cardinal Fathers, gathered at the Vatican for the General Congregations in view of the next conclave, send you their devoted greetings and express their renewed gratitude for all your illustrious Petrine ministry and for your example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world. With their gratitude they hope to represent the recognition of the entire Church for your tireless work in the vineyard of the Lord. In conclusion, the members of the College of Cardinals trust in your prayers for them, as well as for the whole Church.”
Fr. Lombardi reported that the preparations for the Conclave have begun in the Sistine Chapel so it is now closed to visitors. He also presented data on the media coverage of the events of the Holy See in these days: 4,432 temporarily accredited journalists have joined the 600 permanently accredited journalists. The more than 5,000 journalists represent 1,004 news outlets, 65 nations, and 24 languages.