Start date picked for conclave
VATICAN CITY—Cardinals have set Tuesday as the start date for the conclave to elect the next pope, signalling they were wrapping up a week of discussions about the problems of the church and who best among them might lead it.
The conclave date was set this afternoon during a vote by the College of Cardinals.
In the past 100 years, no conclave has lasted longer than five days.
That said, there doesn’t appear to be a front-runner in this election. And the past week of deliberations has exposed sharp divisions among cardinals about some of the pressing problems facing the church, including of governance within the Holy See itself.
U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, considered a papal contender, said in a blog post today that most of the discussions in the closed-door meetings covered preaching and teaching the Catholic faith, tending to Catholic schools and hospitals, protecting families and the unborn, and supporting priests “and getting more of them!”
“Those are the ‘big issues,’” he wrote. “You may find that hard to believe, since the ‘word on the street’ is that all we talk about is corruption in the Vatican, sexual abuse, money.
“Do these topics come up? Yes! Do they dominate? No!”
According to Vatican analysts and even some cardinals themselves, the list of papabili, or those considered to have the stuff to be pope, remains relatively unchanged from when Benedict XVI first announced he would resign Feb. 28.
But some Italian media have speculated that with governance such a key issue in this conclave, the cardinals also might be considering an informal pope-secretary of state “ticket.”
The Vatican secretary of state is primarily responsible for running the Holy See, but it’s not an elected job like the pope.
It’s a papal appointment, and will be a very closely-watched papal appointment this time around given the stakes.
Also today, the cardinals formally agreed to exempt two of their voting-age colleagues from the conclave who in past weeks had signalled they wouldn’t come.
They include Cardinal Julius Darmaatjadja, emeritus archbishop of Jakarta, who is ill and Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who resigned last week after admitting to inappropriate sexual misconduct.
That formality brings the number of cardinal electors to 115.
A two-thirds majority—or 77 votes—is required for victory.