Vatican City

'No rush' to set conclave date, says Lombardi

Second day of general congregations comes to an end

'No rush' to set conclave date, says Lombardi

Vatican City, March 5 - Cardinals gathered in Rome are in "no rush" to set a date for the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor as pope, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Tuesday. Catholic cardinals on Tuesday embarked on their second day of pre-conclave meetings, called the "general congregations", at the Vatican. The meetings enable the cardinals to get to know each other better, share ideas about what characteristics the next leader of the Catholic Church should have and establish a date for the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor. Lombardi said that the fact that the cardinals have opted not to hold afternoon sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, after holding two sessions in Monday, is "significant" as it suggests they intend to take their time. The spokesman, one of the non-cardinals present during the congregations, said he sensed that the cardinals wanted to "understand how long is needed to properly prepare for such an important event without hurrying things in any way". Until all the Catholic cardinals arrive for pre-conclave meetings, "what's the point" in trying to pin down a hypothetical date (for the conclave to begin), Archbishop of Galveston-Houston Daniel DiNardo said on Tuesday. All but five of the 115 cardinal electors who are set to select the pope at the upcoming conclave are already in Rome, Lombardi said. All of the cardinal electors have to be present before the date of the conclave can be set. The Vatican Museums said on Tuesday that it was closing the Sistine Chapel, which will soon host the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor, until further notice. It will still be possible to enter the Museums but the chapel, home to Michelangelo's famous frescoed ceilings and his depiction of The Last Judgment, and some other parts of the complex will be off limits. "In order to accommodate the forthcoming Conclave, the Sistine Chapel will remain closed to the public from 1 pm on Tuesday 5 March until further notice," read a statement on the Vatican Museums' website. "During the same period, the Borgia Apartment and the Collection of Modern Religious Art will not be included in visits to the Vatican Museums". The Vatican said Tuesday that three urns will be used to collect votes at the upcoming conclave to elect the next pope and that two stoves will be employed. The Vatican's press office showed pictures at a news conference of the urns with locks on top that will be used. Father Lombardi said one urn will be use to collect the votes, another for ballots that have been counted and the other is there to be taken to any cardinals who cannot get to the Sistine Chapel to vote. They were designed by Italian sculptor Cecco Bonanotte. Lombardi added that two stoves would be in use, one to burn the ballots and the other to create the smoke that lets the world know whether the cardinals have elected a new pope - white if they have, black if they have not. "If there were only the papers (of the votes) burning, there wouldn't be enough smoke," Lombardi explained. "It's necessary to put in special smoke to show the result better". As for how long the conclave will take, Cardinal DiNardo said that "there are cardinals who want more discussion, others who have less patience. In general, we all want to finish before the Holy Week so we can return to our diocese. But it'll take as long as it takes".

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