Vatican City

Conclave down to 116 as questions surrounding cardinals stir

Controversies heat up around Mahony, Daneels

Conclave down to 116 as questions surrounding cardinals stir

Vatican City, February 22 - In the days leading up to the formal resignation of Benedict XVI, attention is increasingly focusing on the princes of the Church who will elect his successor as controversies stir. The conclave of cardinals due to elect a new pope next month dropped down to 116 on Friday after Indonesia's cardinal announced he will not go to Rome due to ailing health. "I will not go. My eyesight does not allow me," said Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja in an interview with Jakarta-based magazine Hidup Katolik. Darmaatmadja, 78, added that he would be unable to read "texts, materials, rules, and so on" during the selection process. "For this I ask forgiveness from the Catholic Church of Indonesia, that I cannot represent (the country) in this very important event," he said. Vatican Spokesman Federico Lombardi said that the congregation of cardinals still had to formalize his absence. Benedict XVI will formally step down from the papacy February 28 following his shocking announcement last week that he no longer had the physical and mental strength to lead. The conclave of cardinals to elect his successor is expected to commence mid-March, but Benedict may issue a temporary change of rules to start it sooner. If so, it would not be the first change he has made to procedure since announcing his resignation. Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano reported Friday that he had already made changes to the rites performed at the beginning of a pontificate. The changes pertain to two ceremonies: the celebration of the start of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, and the celebration of the enthronement at the basilica of St John Lateran in Rome. Both rites, in which all cardinals present in Rome will participate, shall now be performed before the holy mass. The changes were finalized during a papal audience with Father Guido Marini, master of pontifical liturgical celebrations, on Monday, the daily said. Furthermore the new pope will no longer be required to immediately visit the two papal basilicas of Saint Paul outside the Walls and Saint Mary Major, but "when he finds it most opportune" to do so, said Marini. On Friday Benedict appointed Father Antonio Camilleri to replace Father Ettore Balestrero as the new undersecretary for relations with states amid rumours of the latter's involvement in the recent so-called Vatileaks affair. Monsignor Camilleri previously served as nunciature counsellor in the same department. Monsignor Balestrero, a close aide of Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, oversaw relations between the Holy See and the controversial Vatican Bank (IOR) and headed up the Vatican delegation to the Council of Europe's Moneyval committee on financial transparency in its bid to join the 'white list' of states that respect international standards on combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism. He has been appointed apostolic nuncio to Colombia and archbishop of the city of Vittoriana. The Church denied there was any connection between the new appointments and the Vatileaks scandal. Meanwhile the priest sex-abuse scandals continued to heat up in the days leading up to the election of a new pontiff. Belgium's Cardinal Godfried Daneels has become the latest prince of the church whose presence at next month's conclave has been questioned because of sex-abuse allegations. Belgian radio station Vivacite' launched a poll Friday asking listeners whether Daneels, accused of covering predator priests in 2010, should go to Rome to help vote in a successor to Pope Benedict XVI. The poll is being covered live by Belgian TV station LaDeux. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the head of the Irish Church, Cardinal Sean Brady, and former Los Angeles archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony are all facing calls not to attend. Catholic members of Italian consumer association Codacons on Friday submitted a request to prosecutors to open a sex-abuse investigation into Mahony if he comes to Rome for the conclave, but also asked Benedict XVI to prevent him from attending at all. "We maintain there are sufficient grounds to put him under investigation as soon as he enters our country," said a statement from the group. Mahony must answer questions under oath Saturday about a visiting Mexican priest who in 1987 is believed to have molested 26 children. In its petition to prosecutors, Codacons said "we must bring to light whether there were any Italians who were victimized". Codacons also asked the pope to intervene. "Considering the requests from the Christian world, keep the cardinal from participating in the conclave," they said.

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