Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet smiled and waved to reporters as he strolled through St. Peter's Square Photo by Michael Swan

Cardinals complete pre-conclave meetings, voting begins on Tuesday

  • March 11, 2013

Rome - Cardinals exited the final session of their pre-conclave discussions on the state of the Church just before 1:00 p.m. on Monday. Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet smiled and waved to reporters as he strolled through St. Peter's Square and then to lunch.

Tuesday, the conclave beings. Cardinals will move into the Domus Santae Marthae, the residence next door to the Sistine Chapel where they will pray vespers or evening prayer of the divine office. At 4:30 p.m. Rome time (11:30 Eastern) they will process from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel. At 4:45 (11:45) they will swear an oath of secrecy and hear a meditation given by 87-year-old Maltese Cardinal Prospero Grech.

Then comes the declaration "extra omens" expelling all non-voters from the Sistine Chapel and the first ballot by the 115 cardinal electors. The names of vote getters will be read to the cardinals and, at this point, the cardinals will have the first tangible indication of the frontrunners to succeed Pope Benedict.

At 7:15 p.m. (2:15) the cardinals pray vespers, the evening prayer of the Divine Office. At 7:30 they return to the Domus Sanctae Marthae, followed by dinner at 8:00 p.m.

Voting days from that point on will begin with breakfast between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., Mass in the Pauline Chapel at 8:15 a.m., then two rounds of voting beginning with prayer at 9:30 a.m. Lunch is at 1:00 p.m. Voting resumes at 4:50 p.m. Two ballots in the evening should take them to Vespers at 7:15 p.m. and dinner at 8:00 p.m.

If by Friday no one is elected the cardinals may take a retreat for contemplation and prayer of up to one day.

At this morning's final General Congregation, 152 cardinals were in attendance and 28 spoke, said Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi. During the 10 pre-conclave sessions, there were a total of 161 speakers. Lombardi said some cardinals still wished to address the assembly but "it was decided not to have another Congregation this afternoon in light of the move to the Domus Sanctae Marthae and the preparations for the Conclave.”

On the eve of the conclave, speculation is rampant about who will be the next pope.

The New York Times names Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary as possible front-runners. The National Catholic Reporter's Vatican expert John Allen writes frequently about Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of the Pontifical Council for Culture, but is always careful to say he is a long shot. No one has made a stronger case for Quebec's Cardinal Marc Ouellet as papabile than Allen.

Backstage at the impressive CBS News operation looking over St. Peter's Square, producers and reporters talk about a real possibility that either Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl or Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley might be the right men for the job of reforming Vatican bureaucracy.

Every wire service in the known universe has named Milan's Cardinal Angelo Scola as the reformers' choice, Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schonborn as the liberal outsider and Manila's Cardinal Louis Antonio Gokim Tagle as the perfect candidate, except that he's only 55 years old.

The cardinals themselves are not talking, so there is no real way to know who is leading, who is following.

A Catholic Register Special Feature - Pope Benedict XVI steps down

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