Cardinals Set April 18 for Papal Conclave
The College of Cardinals will meet April 18 to begin the process of choosing a new pope.
The College of Cardinals on Wednesday set April 18 as the date for the historic start of the conclave to elect a successor to Pope John Paul II, as the Vatican made final arrangements for the funeral expected to draw millions of pilgrims and world leaders to Rome. The decision came after the cardinals read John Paul’s spiritual testament during a pre-conclave meeting Wednesday, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said, adding that the text would be released on Thursday.
Navarro-Valls said cardinals would celebrate a morning Mass on April 18, then be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel in the early afternoon to start the conclave. According to church law, prelates are expected to hold one ballot on the first day of a conclave.
One wonders why they wait so long. While I can understand not wanting to upstage the ceremonies honoring the old pope, choosing a successor quickly strikes me as advantageous.
In a major change to a centuries-old practice of electing a new pope, the Vatican has said it planned to ring bells in addition to sending up white smoke to announce that a new pope has been chosen. Black smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel signals no decision has been made after a papal ballot, while white smoke means a pope has been elected. In the past, it has sometimes been hard to tell whether the smoke from the Vatican chimney was white or black. “This time we plan to ring the bells to make the election of the pope clearer,” Archbishop Piero Marini said Tuesday.
In another change from past papal elections, cardinals voting in the conclave will have access to all of Vatican City during the election, as opposed to being sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, Marini said.