Cardinals set April 18 for start of conclave, read popes will
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As a record number of mourners continued to file past
Pope John Paul II's body, the world's cardinals set April 18 for the start
of the election of his successor.
The cardinals, in their third day of meetings, also read Pope John Paul's
last will and testament. The document, about 15 pages long, will be
published April 7, the Vatican said.
There are 117 cardinals under age 80 and therefore eligible to vote in the
conclave, which will begin during the afternoon of April 18 after a morning
Mass. It was not known if all the voting-age cardinals would be able to make
the trip to Rome.
The cardinals may vote during their first afternoon session or may begin
voting the next morning. After that, balloting is done twice each morning
and twice each afternoon until a pope is elected, with occasional pauses for
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that in his written spiritual
testament the pope had not revealed the name of a cardinal he secretly
appointed in 2003. That means the cardinal's identity will never be known,
and he will not be able to vote in the conclave.
The Vatican spokesman said the testament was not something written on the
pope's deathbed, but had been prepared in different entries that began in
1979, the second year of Pope John Paul's pontificate.
As of April 6, 122 of the 183 cardinals had arrived in Rome. All the
cardinals, even those over age 80, can participate in the daily meetings
that lead up to the conclave. When they arrive, each cardinal takes an oath
to maintain secrecy about any matter relating to the election of the next
The cardinals spent most of their meeting taking care of practical business.
They reviewed the list of foreign dignitaries and spiritual leaders who
would be attending the pope's funeral April 8. They also considered requests
by some of the dignitaries to kneel and pray before the pope's body in St.
Peter's Basilica, but held off a decision while security issues were being
The cardinals denied a request from Rome Catholics to move the pope's body
to the Basilica of St. John Lateran for viewing after the funeral Mass and
before burial. They cited technical and logistical reasons for denying the
request that he be taken to St. John's, his diocesan cathedral.
The viewing in St. Peter's Square continued for a third day, with huge lines
gradually filling up the neighborhood streets surrounding Vatican City. The
crowds jammed traffic throughout large parts of the city, and some people
waited at least nine hours before entering the basilica and briefly passing
by the dead pope.
Among those coming to Rome for the pope's funeral was U.S. President George
W. Bush, who was expected to arrive late April 6. He will be the first U.S.
president to attend a papal funeral.
Several delegations from other Christian churches were also expected, along
with those of non-Christian religions. The Vatican said a full list would be
published April 7.
Rome authorities, alarmed at the size of the crowds that have come to the
Vatican since the pope died April 2, asked people in other parts of Italy to
stay home that day. They also planned to set up giant TV screens in several
Rome squares so people unable to get near the Vatican could follow the
funeral and burial.