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Briefing on Pope's Testament and Date of Conclave

Briefing on Pope's Testament and Date of Conclave

Given by Vatican Spokesman

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is ZENIT's transcription of the briefing given this morning by Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office.

* * *

At present there are 122 cardinals present in Rome. I must say that there are differences among those present in Rome, as some of them have been, so to speak, called by their dioceses as, for example, in Turin [where] the faithful have requested a Mass for the Pope. Therefore, they have had to return for about 24 hours. The majority of the dioceses involved are Italian, although there are also some that are foreign.

In today's general congregation the cardinals were informed about the official delegations, coming virtually from all over the world, that will be present at the Holy Father's funeral on Friday morning, as well as the delegations of the different Christian confessions and of other religions. I hope we will be able to give the list tomorrow, as some were yet to be confirmed.

The cardinals considered some particular questions relative to the funeral and the celebration of the "novendiali" [nine Masses]. The "novendiali" will begin precisely on Friday, the day of the funeral, and then continue for nine days. In particular, they have paid attention to the papal chapels of Saturday, April 9; Tuesday the 12th; and Saturday, April 16.

I add a brief technical detail. The "novendiali" are the nine Masses that are celebrated each day. Why are some called papal chapels? Because in the rest of the Masses some groups, a diocese, people who work in the Vatican ... are generally invited. The chapels are more open, less specific, as regards the number of people or groups present.

This morning, consideration was given to the request, which came from different quarters, to take the Holy Father's body to the Basilica of St. John Lateran on Friday, April 8, after the holding of the funeral and before the burial. You can imagine that the request came from different quarters to allow for the veneration of the faithful, Romans and non-Romans, who were unable to reach St. Peter's Square.

After careful study, it was decided that this idea was technically unrealizable. I will not explain the reasons, because you are witnessing the concentration of people in the whole of Rome, and it would not be possible to take the body to the basilica or square of St. John Lateran. The faithful who are there will have to follow the ceremony on screens which will be installed.

Recalled this morning was the fact that at times during the Jubilee, particularly during the Young People's Jubilee, the crowds had to be divided between St. John's and St. Peter's squares, because they could not all fit in the same place.

Then, as announced, the burial in the Vatican Grottoes will take place immediately after the funeral Mass.

The testament of the Holy Father John Paul II was read and it was decided that it would be published tomorrow in full in its original language, Polish, and in a translation into Italian. The fact that its publication was not made to coincide with today's reading is simply a problem of translation. It was read in a draft Italian translation and must now be revised, that is, made literarily satisfactory.

The date of the start of the conclave has been fixed for April 18. In the morning, probably at 10 o'clock, the Votive Mass "Pro Eligendo Papa" will be celebrated in the Vatican basilica, and the cardinals will enter the conclave in the early afternoon and remain there until the election of the new supreme pontiff.

I have one more point that relates to the interest of public opinion. I can confirm that the Holy Father, before his death, did not communicate the name of the cardinal he had reserved "in pectore," when it was announced in the consistory of October 2003. Therefore, the question is no longer posed.

[Afterward, Joaquín Navarro Valls answered these questions from journalists]

Paloma Gómez Borrero: Have the delegations, not just the political but also the religious, asked to see the Pope before? What will be done to offer this possibility?

Navarro Valls: It is a subject which the cardinals thought about this morning, as some delegations have made this request with the explicit desire to render homage and pray before the Holy Father's body in the basilica, and they have given reasons of transport, etc. The cardinals have said that there is no problem. A technical study is now under way to analyze questions of security, transport, etc.

Marco Tosatti: I would like to know if the technical commission has already been established which must organize the conclave from the practical point of view, and if the two religious have been chosen who will preach at the opening of the conclave?

Navarro Valls: I heard names this morning, but I believe they are in discussion or preparation. Anyway, I will ask tomorrow to confirm both [points].

Gerard O'Connell: How many cardinals will come to the conclave? If some are sick, do we know who is not coming? Was [the Pope's] testament written in just one moment?

Navarro-Valls: In regard to the number of cardinals who will not come, I know that some have already notified they will not come because of illness. But I don't want to give a number now which is not final. Therefore, it is a point of which I take note, to address it before the conclave begins.

In regard to the Holy Father's testament, you will read it tomorrow, you will have it in your hands, and judge for yourselves. I think it is some 15 pages long. It is a testament written in several moments.

Some pages have a paragraph of only a few lines written at a later date. On some the writing is just half a sheet, etc. I will share a point that might be useful to you, at least it was useful to me: the date of the first pages of the testament. At what moment of health or illness did he write it? The first part of the testament was written in 1979. But tomorrow you will have all the details.

Antonio Pelayo: I would like to ask if a visit has been planned for journalists to the Sistine Chapel and to St. Martha's House [or Domus Sanctae Marthae, the cardinals' residence] before the conclave.

Navarro Valls: We have studied it, not at the level of cardinals, but in my office. I don't think there is a problem for the Sistine Chapel. But I think that today we will announce when it will close, as it must be prepared.

In regard to St. Martha's, the problem is that now many cardinals are already living there and they are not too keen on seeing groups or individuals file past. ... There is no special reason; it is simply a question of rooms where there is nothing to see.

Moreover, this poses a logistical problem for the press office. The approximate number of accredited journalists exceeds 3,500. For us it would be an enormous problem, although the possibility might be given to permanently accredited journalists. In any case, it is a serious problem.

A film is being shown; I think it lasts some 28-30 minutes, which shows the whole of St. Martha's, in the interior. Therefore, you will be able to describe it as though you were present. Everything is there. There is nothing missing of the interior of St. Martha's. We will show [the film] before the conclave.

Another film will also be shown, for those who are interested, on the different instruments or ambits linked to the conclave: the famous stove, where the slips of paper for voting are placed; you will be able to report as though you were present.

ENDS

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