Rome

Cardinals at papal conclave to bunk down in Santa Marta

New residence boasts air-conditioning, new beds, private baths

Cardinals at papal conclave to bunk down in Santa Marta

Rome, February 21 - The Vatican is working at top speed to arrange accommodation fit for a cardinal - or, to be specific, 117 cardinals who are descending on Rome next month to choose a new pope. From comfortable bedrooms to solid tables for voting in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican staff are striving to accommodate everyone without the appearance of favouring anyone. The cardinals, coming from all over the world to vote after Pope Benedict XVI retires on February 28, will rest in well-equipped rooms at the Vatican's Santa Marta residence. The five-story building was constructed in the 1990s and used just once before, for cardinals in the conclave that selected Benedict in April 2005. It is considered to be much more comfortable than the dormitories used for previous papal elections. Their rooms are equipped with good Internet connections, air conditioning, telephones, televisions and private bathrooms. More than 100 of the rooms boast queen-sized beds, although some cardinals will have to bunk down in slightly smaller quarters. A draw will be held for room allocations. The high-tech conveniences will not last through the cardinals' entire stay as once the voting begins, all connections with the outside world will be cut off. Cardinals will also be shuttled the 700 meters from the residence to the Sistine Chapel by bus. (photo: archive picture of Santa Marta interior with Pope John Paul II)

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