The very first issue on Fr Federico Lombardi’s agenda for his daily press briefing on Thursday, 7 March, was to reiterate once again that no date has yet been set for Conclave.
He noted that news reports of St Peter’s Basilica having been booked next Monday afternoon at 5pm, for a Mass for the election of the Roman Pontiff are unfounded.
Fr Lombardi pointed out to press that the Missa pro eligendo pontifice can be celebrated by any priest during the interregnum, or Vacant See, as part of the Universal Church’s call to prayer during this period.
152 Cardinals were present for the fifth general congregation that began at 9:30 with prayer. There were two new arrivals overnight: Cardinal Nycz from Warsaw, Poland, who is an elector; and Italian Cardinal Coppa, who is not.
The Vietnamese Cardinal Pham of Hồ Chí Minh City is due to arrive in time for Thursday afternoon’s session. His arrival will bring the number of Cardinal Electors present in Rome to the total 115 men who can vote in Conclave for the Pope.
The particular congregation, or executive that aids the camerlegno, Cardinal Bertone, and is chosen by lot every three days, was renewed this morning: The names extracted were Cardinal Rai for the order of bishops, Cardinal Monsengwo for the order of priests and Cardinal De Paolis for the order of deacons.
Also Thursday morning the Cardinal-Dean, Angelo Sodano, read the text of a telegram that the College of Cardinals will send to Venezuela marking death of President Chavez.
There were 16 interventions, the first three by Cardinals in charge of the economic affairs of the Holy See; Cardinal Versaldi who is in charge of economic affairs, Cardinal Calcagno in charge of APSA (administration of the Holy See’s patrimony) and Cardinal Bertello from the Governatorate of Vatican City State. Paragraph 171 of the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia Pastor Bonus demands the College of Cardinals receive a report on the patrimonial and economic status of the Holy See during the Vacant See.
The remaining 13 interventions were wide ranging: touching on topics from the Church’s commitment to evangelization, relations with local bishops, ecumenical dialogue and the Church’s charitable commitment to the poor. Further discussion concerned the talents, qualities and characteristics required of the next Pope.
Journalists were once again treated to a brief film depicting preparation work on the Sistine Chapel. This included workmen blacking out the windows to the ancient chapel and the installation of the chimney stack through which the world will first come to know when and if a Pope has been elected.
The sixth general congregation will continue Thursday evening from 5-7pm (Rome time).