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Thursday, March 7, 2013


Vatican City, 7 March 2013 (VIS) – In the course of the daily press briefing held by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., the news reported by a press agency that some of the Masters of Ceremony had reserved St. Peter's Basilica this coming Monday to celebrate a “pro eligendo Summo Pontefice” Mass, thus giving an indication that the Conclave date had been set, was summarily dismissed.

I spoke with the Master of Ceremonies Marini [Msgr. Guido Marini, master of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff] personally,” Fr. Lombardi said, “and that is definitely not the case. Moreover, reserving St. Peter's Basilica is not the task of the Master of Ceremonies but of the College of Cardinals. That news, therefore, is completely false. Also, all priests can celebrate a “pro eligendo Summo Pontefice” Mass asking God to enlighten the pontifical College in these days so such a Mass would not indicate the beginning of the Conclave.”

There were 152 cardinals present at this morning's fifth General Congregation, which was held from 9:30am until 21:30am. This includes two newly arrived cardinals who took the oath of secrecy: Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, archbishop of Warsaw, Poland, who is a Cardinal elector and Cardinal Giovanni Coppa, apostolic nuncio emeritus to Czech Republic. The final Cardinal elector expected, Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, archbishop of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, is in the process of arriving.

Three new Cardinal assistants were chosen by lot to serve on the Particular Congregation, the three-day term of the first Cardinal assistants having expired. The Cardinal assistants chosen were: from the Order of Bishops, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, O.M.M., patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon; from the Order of Priests, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; and from the Order of Deacons, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, C.S., president emeritus of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

During the Congregation, Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano read the draft of a telegram of condolence to be sent for the death of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, on behalf of the College of Cardinals, which was approved by all. “When a head of state dies,” Fr. Lombardi explained, “the Pope always sends a telegram of condolence. In this case, during the Sede Vacante, that task falls to the College of Cardinals.”

Over the course of the morning, 16 cardinals addressed the gathering. The first three speeches were from those responsible for the finances and the patrimony of the Holy See: Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA); and Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State. As called for in No. 171 § 2 of the Apostolic Constitution “Pastor Bonus”, during the Sede Vacante the Carmelengo has to provide the College of Cardinals with this information regarding the Holy See's patrimonial and economic status. “They were brief but clear reports of each one's area of competence,” the director of the Holy See Press Office said, “bearing in mind that there is always an established date to present the previous year's balance, which is released in July. Today's was a quick way of giving information in broad outlines.”

The other 13 addresses touched upon a variety of topics, always following the order of request and without any specific order of theme. To the topics that have become common in these days—that is, evangelism, the Holy See and its Dicasteries, and the profile of expectations and hopes for the new Pope—were added issues including ecumenism, relations with other Christian churches, and the Church's charitable efforts. It has to be kept in mind that the Congregation is not simply composed of these speeches. There is also a break of a half hour or more when the Cardinal fathers can meet with one another and exchange opinions among themselves.”

Fr. Lombardi also addressed the question of confidentiality and secrecy regarding the Conclave and the General Congregations in light of some news that has been published in these days. “Article 12 of the Apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis'”, he clarified, “states that the cardinals must take an oath to observe the provisions made within and to maintain secrecy. Obviously, it is different form the oath made at the Conclave. However, the common denominator is maintaining the reserve and privacy of the institutional atmosphere as a College, not just as private individuals. For example, during the Sede Vacante of 2005, the cardinals decided and voted not to give interviews after the first Congregations.”

Finally, referring to the outfitting of the Sistine Chapel for the Conclave, Fr. Lombardi indicated that preparations for the elevation of the pavement are continuing, the windows have been blacked-out, and the two stoves for producing the “fumata” (smoke signalling the election or non-election of a Pope after each vote) have been installed. Also, the Pope emeritus' coat of arms, which is created with flowers in the Vatican Gardens and visible from the cupola of St. Peter's Basilica, was removed to prepare the flower bed for the new Pope's insignia.

The sixth General Congregation will be held this evening from 5:00pm-7:00pm.


Vatican City, 7 March 2013 (VIS) - The Santa Martha House (Domus Sanctae Marthae) is a modern residence building located near St. Peter's Basilica on the site of a former hospice for pilgrims. Since its construction in 1996 it has provided housing for prelates and others having business with the Holy See. The five-story building has 106 suites, 22 single rooms, and one apartment. Its management is entrusted to a director, whose appointment is reserved to the Secretariat of State, and its tasks are defined by statute.

In this period of the Sede Vacante, those persons residing in the “Domus” have been moved in order to make the necessary preparations for housing the Cardinal electors. When the Conclave begins, besides the Cardinal electors, the “Domus” will also house those persons resident within the Vatican who also form part of the Conclave, as established in No. 46 of “Universi Dominici Gregis”.

Juridically speaking, the current manifestation of the Domus Sanctae Marthae is a foundation. It was established in 1996 by a chirograph, that is, a hand-written charter, which was penned by Pope John Paul II himself. Today's building replaces the St. Martha Hospice that was ordered built by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 during the fifth cholera pandemic to care for the sick from the areas around the Vatican. During World War II, the building was used to house refugees, Jews, and ambassadors from countries that had broken diplomatic relations with Italy.

John Paul II's chirograph states that: “in view of the new situation that has arisen, I have resolved to suppress the previous Foundation in order to establish a new Foundation under the title of "Domus Sanctae Marthae” for the purpose of offering hospitality, in the spirit of true priestly fraternity, to the ecclesiastic personnel in service of the Secretariat of State and, as far as possible, in service of the other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as well as the Cardinals and Bishops travelling to Vatican City in order to visit with the Pope or to participate in events and meetings organized by the Holy See. All of this is compatible with the provisions established in the Apostolic Constitution, 'Universi Dominici Gregis', which reserves the building's rooms for the exclusive use of the Cardinal electors during the Conclave for the election of the Supreme Pontiff.”

The other persons, besides the Cardinal electors, who will reside at or enter the “Domus” during the Conclave are those mentioned in “Universi Dominici Gregis” as necessary “to meet the personal and official needs connected with the election process”. These include: the Secretary of the College of Cardinals; the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations; the Masters of Ceremonies; priests from the regular clergy for hearing confessions in the different languages; two medical doctors for possible emergencies; as well as cleaning and cooking staff. All the persons indicated here must receive prior approval from the Cardinal Camerlengo.

During the Conclave the Cardinal electors can walk from the “Domus” to the Sistine Chapel unless they desire to use the small bus that has been placed at their disposition.
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