Continuing, Fr. Lombardi reported on the sixth General Congregation, which took place yesterday evening from 5:00pm until 7:00pm and was attended by 151 cardinals. Two newly arrived cardinals swore the oath: Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, metropolitan archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Cardinal elector) and Cardinal Adam Joseph Maida, archbishop emeritus of Detroit, Michigan, USA (non elector). The entire complement of 115 Cardinal electors who were expected has thus arrived. During the course of the Congregation 16 interventions were given.
In the seventh General Congregation this morning, 153 cardinals were present and, as there were no other new arrivals, no new oaths were sworn. All 115 expected Cardinal electors were present. The first act of the Congregation dealt with No. 38 of the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis”, which states that the College of Cardinals must recognize the reasons for the absence of cardinals who will not be participating in the Conclave. “In this case there are two absences: Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja, S.J., archbishop emeritus of Jakarta, Indonesia, for health reasons and Cardinal Keith O’Brien, ex-archbishop of Edinburgh, Scotland, for personal reasons. The College voted to accept the absences for the reasons presented.”
The next order of business was Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano’s presentation of No. 37 of the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis”, recently modified by Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, which now reads: “I furthermore decree that, from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, fifteen full days must elapse before the Conclave begins, in order to await those who are absent; nonetheless, the College of Cardinals is granted the faculty to move forward the start of the Conclave if it is clear that all the Cardinal electors are present; they can also defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.”
“Since all the expected Cardinal electors are now present”, Fr. Lombardi said, “the College can now prepare to decide the date of the Conclave, including whether to move the date up from 15 days after the beginning of the period of the Sede Vacante.”
“The cardinals also commented on the Adopt-a-Cardinal prayer initiative that is being promoted on the web, which over 220,000 people have already subscribed to.” In signing up, participants are assigned, at random, a cardinal for whom they can pray during these days.
During this morning’s seventh General Congregation, there were 18 interventions on issues including: interreligious dialogue, contemporary culture, bioethics, justice in the world, the importance of the Church proclaiming a positive message of love and mercy, and collegiality. The role of women in the Church was also discussed. Since most of the cardinals have only spoken once, over a hundred cardinals have intervened and still others are signed up to address the gathering in the coming Congregations.
Fr. Lombardi also mentioned the Domus Santa Martha, which will be the residence of the cardinals during the Conclave, explaining that the cardinals’ rooms are assigned by lot drawn during the Congregations. “No cardinal chooses who will be his neighbour nor which room they would prefer. He noted that the newly elected Pontiff will also remain for a short period at the “Domus” while the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace are unsealed and renovated.
In another vein, he commented that the Holy See “is vacant but does not stop”, meaning that the Vatican’s various dicasteries continue with their normal activities under the direction of their various department heads. He also provided the name of the preacher who will give the following meditation to the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Prospero Grech, O.S.A.
Responding to previous questions regarding the preparations of the floor of the Sistine Chapel for the Conclave, the director of the Holy See Press Office clarified that “the elevation of the floor serves to render a uniform working space, covering the uneven pavement and the steps” that are around the altar and along the left wall of the chapel.