Cardinals conclude pre-conclave talks
Church to have new pope 'within days' says Schoenborn11 March, 21:11
(By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Vatican City, March 11 - Cardinals gathered at the Vatican on Monday for the last of the general congregation meetings before the start of the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor on Tuesday.
The general congregations, which started last Monday, enable the cardinals to get to know each other better and share ideas about what characteristics the next leader of the Catholic Church should have. Over 150 cardinals are taking part in the congregations, but only 115 will participate in the conclave because only those under 80 are eligible to vote. Over 100 cardinals made speeches known as interventions at the general congregations last week, with only few speaking more than once. Many had still not had the chance to make an address before proceedings resumed just after 9.30am Italian time Monday.
Regardless, the election process will commence Tuesday. According to Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schoenborn, the Catholic Church should have a new pope within days.
"In a few days we will have the new Holy Father," said Schoenborn. "Without betraying the pontifical secret, I'm not doing a VatiLeaks, I can say that I have encountered a spirit of fraternity I've rarely experienced in this week of meetings between cardinals". The conclave to elect the 266th pontiff follows the shock resignation of Benedict XVI, who on February 28 became the first pope to abdicate in 600 years. Benedict, 85, stepped down after announcing on February 11 that he no longer had the mental and physical strength to lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
The Vatican said on Monday that his successor was unlikely to be elected on the first vote. Observers will most probably see "black smoke" at the end of the first day of the conclave on Tuesday, signaling that electors have yet to choose the new pontiff, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.
"It's hard to imagine a conclusive result will come from the first day of voting". Smoke that lets the world know whether the cardinals have elected a new pope is white, while black smoke means that no decision has been made.
Lombardi also noted that in 2005 when Benedict was elected the smoke signaling the conclave's decision, after two days of talks, came late, after 20.00.
But talk at the Vatican was not limited to procedure. Lombardi said "a brief report" on the troubled Vatican Bank, also known as the Institute of Religious Works (IOR), was presented by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary of state during the papacy of Benedict XVI.
Lombardi said the report addressed the "process of integrating with Moneyval," which is the Council of Europe's committee on financial transparency. The Vatican has been making efforts to comply with Moneyval in order to join the 'white list' of states that respect international standards on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism. One high-profile controversy during Benedict's papacy involved the Vatican Bank, whose head was sacked amid a push to get it on the UN's list of countries with flawless anti-money-laundering credentials.