The papal conclave that will be held next week has had its share of rumors including competitions between Italian and non-Italian cardinals, cardinals who want access to classified Vatican documents, and several lists with names of potential papal candidates. On Saturday, one of few sources of official information on the Vatican hinted to reporters, according to Huff Post, about the mood inside the general meetings held before the conclave on Tuesday. As Rev. Fredrico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, explained in a brief statement to the the press there’s no reason to believe it will take long for a new pope to be chosen suggesting there may be a frontrunner or multiple frontrunners which could indicate that a new pope could be elected before Friday. If the past is a good indicator, this may very well be true as both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II were elected in two days. On Saturday, despite rumors on Friday when the date for the conclave was announced and Vatican reporters suggested that Italian cardinals wanted an earlier date to influence the vote before all the cardinals had arrived, during a briefing with Lombardi he denied any huge discussions among cardinals about when to start voting according to the Huff Post. Including Saturday, cardinals have met a total of nine times in General Congregation during pre-conclave meeting to discuss church priorities and a conclave date which Lombardi commented on Saturday that the cardinals decided on March 12 for the conclave with a 10 to 1 margin. There will be no General Congregation on Sunday but will resume on Monday to discuss hopes for the new pope, regional development in the church and improving the curia which is dominated by Italian cardinals.
The spokesman for the Vatican also detailed the timeline for the voting process. Cardinals have already drawn lots for rooms on Saturday for Casa Santa Marta, a guarded Vatican residence, where they will stay during the conclave. Tuesday morning, they will move to the Sistine Chapel through the connected Pauline Chapel where the Mass Pro Eligendo Pontifice (“for the Election of the Roman Pontiff”) will happen at 10 a.m. proceeded by the oath of secrecy at 4:30 p.m. in the Sistine Chapel. After the oath, anyone not involved with the voting will be asked to leave, then the cardinals will listen to Maltese Cardinal Prospero Grech about conclave responsibilities and will vote up to two times. At 7 p.m. prayer will happen and 7:30 return to Casa Santa Marta. Aside from Tuesday, the cardinals will be voting four times a day until two thirds votes or 77 votes are received to elect the new pope. Every time their is a vote and whether the winning vote is taken will determine the color of the smoke which is white for a new pope and black for no pope elected. Before the white smoke can be released, the new pope must accept the position according to Lombardi who also says if the smoke is released at night then the Sistine Chapel chimney will be lit up. If no pope is chosen by Friday, then the cardinals on Saturday will reflect and pray resuming their voting for three days with one day break until the 34th voting round where the two top candidates will have a runoff. When the pope is chosen and white smoke rises, as when Benedict was chosen, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica will ring which according to Lombardi took about 40 minutes between the two in 2005. On the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the senior cardinal deacon, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran will shout “Habemus Papam!” or “We have a new pope!” and will present the new pope with the white papal cassocks to give his first blessing as pope.