SISTINE CHIMNEY INSTALLED AS CONCLAVE APPROACHES / CARDINALS SEEK HOLY SPIRIT IN PRAYER


[Members of the fire and rescue service set a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.]

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2013 (MANILA BULLETIN) (AP) — The Vatican sought Saturday to quash speculation that divisions among cardinals could drag out the conclave to elect the new pope, while preparations for the vote plowed ahead with firefighters installing the Sistine Chapel chimney that will tell the world when a decision has been reached.

But the specter of an inconclusive first few rounds of secret balloting remained high, with no clear front-runner heading into Tuesday’s papal election and a long list of cardinals still angling to discuss the church’s problems ahead of the vote.

“You don’t have your mind absolutely made up” going into the conclave, US Cardinal Justin Rigali, who participated in the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI, told The Associated Press this week. “You have your impressions.”

The Vatican spokesman, however, took pains to stress the “vast,” near-unanimous decision by the 115 cardinal electors to set Tuesday as the conclave start date and noted that no conclave over the past century has dragged on for more than five days.

“I think it’s a process that can be carried out in a few days without much difficulty,” spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters.

While Tuesday’s initial voting will likely see a broad number of candidates nominated, subsequent rounds will quickly whittle down the field to those candidates who are likely to obtain the two-thirds, or 77 votes necessary for victory, he said.

“This process of identifying the candidates who can receive the consensus and on whom cardinals can converge is a process that can move with notable speed,” Lombardi said.

The Vatican was certainly going full-throttle Saturday with preparations: Inside the frescoed Sistine Chapel, workmen staple-gunned the brown felt carpeting to the false floor that has been constructed to even out the stairs and cover the jamming equipment that has been installed to prevent cellphone or eavesdropping devices from working.

The interference was working: cell phones had no reception in the chapel. Reporters allowed to visit the chapel used their phones instead to pose for photos in front of Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment,” the huge fresco behind the altar depicting a muscular Jesus surrounded by naked masses ascending to heaven and falling to hell.

Off in the rear left-hand corner sat the stove, a century-old cast iron oven where the voting ballot papers are burned, sending up puffs of smoke to tell the world if a pope has been elected (white smoke) or not (black).

After years of confusion, the Vatican in 2005 installed an auxiliary stove where fumigating cases are lit. The smoke from those cases joins the burned ballot smoke in a single copper pipe that snakes up the Sistine’s frescoed walls, out the window and up on the roof where firemen on Saturday fitted the chimney top.

Elsewhere in the Apostolic Palace, officials on Saturday took measures to definitively end Benedict XVI’s pontificate, destroying his fisherman’s ring and the personal seals and stamps he used for official papers.

The act — coupled with Benedict’s public resignation and pledge of obedience to the future pope — is designed to signal the end of his papacy so there is no doubt that a new pope is in charge. These steps were made necessary given Benedict’s decision to resign rather than stay on the job until death.

The developments all point toward the momentous event soon to confront the Catholic Church: Tuesday’s start of the conclave to elect a new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics who must try to solve the numerous problems facing the church.

FROM ABC NEWS

Cardinals Say Mass, Seek Prayers Ahead of Conclave By RACHEL ZOLL AP Religion Writer VATICAN CITY March 9, 2013 (AP)


[Praying for the Papal Conclave]

Cardinals took a break from maneuvering ahead of this week's papal conclave to fan out across Rome and celebrate Sunday Mass at local parishes.

The worship services provided a chance to see the cardinals up close and hear them preach two days before they enter the conclave. Roman Catholics and others packed the churches, holding up cell phones to take photos and video.

The cardinals said Mass in their titular churches, the parishes that according to church tradition are assigned to them as clergy of Rome, creating a symbolic bond with the pope. The conclave, with 115 cardinal-electors, is scheduled to start Tuesday.

The cardinals have been holding meetings and informal gatherings ahead of electing a successor to Benedict XVI. Several church leaders acknowledged the historic moment at Mass.

"This Sunday is also special because today we prepare for the conclave," said Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, in his sermon at Holy Mary of Victory church. "Let us pray that the Holy Spirit illumines the church to choose a new pope who will confirm us in our faith and make more visible the love of the good shepherd."

The parish priest who introduced the cardinal was more direct, describing O'Malley as "humble, but decisive," and saying he hoped his next visit to the church would be as pontiff. The leading Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, has cited the Boston archbishop as a favorite, despite past resistance to the idea of a superpower pope.

Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, considered a top papal contender, distributed communion at Church of the Twelve Holy Apostles, and spoke on the mission of the church.

"It is to announce over and over again, even to the modern man who is so sophisticated but sometimes lost in the new millennium, to announce always and repeatedly that the Lord's mercy is a source of hope even in these difficult times," he said. Scola waved to well-wishers as he was driven away from the church.

At Church of St. Andrew at the Quirinal, a crowd greeted Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, considered Brazil's best hope of filling the papacy. Scherer, who lived in Rome as a young priest, shook hands and hugged the faithful before celebrating Mass. He asked for prayers for the church, calling this period "certainly a difficult time, but also a joyful one and full of hope."

At the relatively young age of 63, Scherer embraces new approaches for reaching nonbelievers, while upholding Catholic orthodoxy, including rejecting same-sex marriage. Scherer joined Twitter in 2011 and in his second tweet said: "If Jesus preached the gospel today, he would also use print media, radio, TV, the Internet and Twitter. Give Him a chance!"

Cardinal Peter Erdo, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, said Mass at Basilica of Santa Balbina on the Aventine hill, where the first known Hungarian cardinal, Istvan Vancsa, was buried in the 13th century. Erdo, a canon lawyer and theologian, is considered a possible compromise candidate. He would be the second pontiff to come from eastern Europe, following Pope John Paul II.

"Let us all pray for the Conclave that will gather the day after tomorrow," Erdo said. "Let's call the Holy Spirit to descend upon the Holy Church."

VIDEO: Cardinals set conclave for March 12 (1:21) March 8 - Cardinals from all over the world will gather for the conclave to elect Pope Benedict's successor next Tuesday. Deborah Gembara reports. ( Transcript )

 


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