Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, arrives to celebrate Mass for the election of the Roman pontiff in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 12. Concelebrating were some 170 cardinals, including 115 under 80 who were to enter th e conclave in the Sistine Chapel that afternoon. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Cardinals applaud Benedict at pre-conclave Mass

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  • March 12, 2013

ROME - St. Peter's Basilica broke out into sustained applause Tuesday morning when hours before the start of the conclave Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the college of cardinals, thanked God for the "brilliant pontificate" of the 265th successor of St. Peter.

Sodano praised Pope Benedict XVI in his homily during the pre-conclave Mass, singling out his encyclicals and his constant teaching on charity. Benedict taught the Church that evangelization is the highest form of human development and the sincerest form of charity, said Sodano.

The cardinal quoted Pope Benedict's lenten message for this year on the subject of charity and evangelization.

"There is no action more beneficial — and therefore more charitable — towards one’s neighbour than to break the bread of the word of God," Benedict wrote. "To share with him the good news of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God — evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person."

Standing above the tomb of St. Peter, who is buried under the altar of the basilica, Sodano also prayed for "another good shepherd."

"The basic attitude of every shepherd is therefore to lay down one’s life for his sheep. This also applies to the Successor of Peter, Pastor of the Universal Church," said Sodano.

"Send us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart," he said.

In the tenth and last general congregation before the conclave, Monday morning, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada was chosen by lot as one of three new members of the committee of cardinals that assists Cardinal Bertone with the "lesser affairs of the proceedings."

As camerlengo, or chamberlain, Bertone runs things while there's no pope, during the period called sede vacante. He takes no major decisions and most of the Vatican bureaucracy is in hibernation anyway. In whatever decisions have to be made, the cardinal camerlengo is assisted by a committee of three other cardinals, chosen by lot and rotated every three days.

Until Thursday, Bertone will be assisted by Ouellet and Cardinals Antonios Naguib and Francesco Monterisi.

If there's still no pope on Thursday, another three cardinals will be chosen by lot.

The Mass at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday was the last public liturgy of the cardinals before they processed into the Sistine Chapel for the start of the conclave at 4:30.

People were lined up to go through security and into St. Peter's Basilica two hours before Mass began. The Mass is formally part of the conclave preparations and known as the Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice Mass.

The Book of Rites of the Conclave (Ordo Rituum Conclavis) begins with an opening prayer in the Pauline Chapel, followed by a procession through the Sala Regia to the Sistine Chapel. The Cardinals follow a cross, a choir, prelates, the secretary of the conclave and Cardinal Prosper Grech into the Sistine Chapel.

During the procession the choir sings the litany of the saints and Veni Creator Spiritus.

Inside the Sistine Chapel the cardinals swear an oath of secrecy, each with his hand on the Gospels on a lectern in the centre of the chapel.

There is a declaration of "Extra Omnes" — everyone out — and then Grech preaches a brief meditation to the 115 cardinal electors. At 87, Grech is not an elector.

A first ballot follows. In 2005 the first smoke signal was just after 8:00 p.m. The earliest estimate for when a fumata could take place today is 6:30 p.m.

With 115 electors and 115 candidates the first puff of smoke will likely be black.

The cardinals will end their day by praying the vespers.

Wednesday morning, after an early breakfast and Mass in the Pauline Chapel, the cardinals get down to voting again at 9:30 a.m. The next puff of smoke, after two rounds of voting, is expected about 12:30 p.m. If a pope is elected the smoke will go up immediately, accompanied by ringing bells. Otherwise black smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney will go up twice a day, once before lunch and once before dinner.

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