Two cardinals to miss conclave for health reasons, spokesman says

By Benedicta Cipolla
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Two cardinal-electors will not participate in the conclave for health reasons, a Vatican spokesman said.

With the April 9 announcement that Filipino Cardinal Jaime Sin, retired archbishop of Manila, and Mexican Mexican Cardinal Adolfo Suarez Rivera, retired archbishop of Monterrey, were too ill to make the trip to Rome, that left 115 cardinals under age 80, still the largest number to vote in a papal election to date.

Cardinal Sin's absence also meant that U.S. Cardinal William W. Baum, the former archbishop of Washington and retired head of two Vatican offices, would act as the senior cardinal priest in the conclave, set to begin April 18.

Cardinals are divided into a three-tier internal hierarchy: cardinal bishops, cardinal priests and cardinal deacons. The cardinal bishops include only six Latin-rite cardinals, one of whom, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is dean of the College of Cardinals. Diocesan bishops make up the bulk of the rank of cardinal priests, while cardinal deacons are mostly members of the Roman Curia.

According to Pope John Paul II's 1996 apostolic constitution updating conclave rules, one of the senior cardinal priest's duties is to deliver a spiritual "exhortation" should voters not be able to agree on a candidate with a two-thirds majority after about six days.

After the first three days, if electors have not chosen a new pope, cardinals suspend voting for a day of prayer and a talk by the senior cardinal deacon, in this case Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez.

If another seven ballots still do not result in a new pope, the cardinals again suspend voting for a day, and the task of addressing them falls to the senior cardinal priest, Cardinal Baum.

A further unsuccessful series of seven ballots would lead to another day of prayer and a speech from the senior cardinal bishop, Cardinal Ratzinger.

Cardinal Baum's secretary told Catholic News Service April 9 that the cardinal would be studying his responsibilities as senior cardinal priest during the week before the start of the conclave.

Cardinals Ratzinger and Baum will be the only two electors who took part in the last election in 1978. Cardinal Sin is the only other voting-age cardinal not appointed by Pope John Paul.


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