Cardinals fail to agree date of conclave

THE college of cardinals met for a second day of talks yesterday to prepare for the conclave to elect a successor to Pope John Paul.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said after the meeting had concluded that the cardinals hadn’t yet decided on a date for the conclave, which according to Church law must occur between 15 and 20 days after the death of a pope.

Brazilian Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo said he thought a new Pope would be chosen quickly.

“I don’t think it will be a long conclave,” he said, adding that cardinals would have had time to reflect beforehand and should already have clear ideas when they begin the voting.

Some hinted they would welcome a pontiff from the developing world. Others said the next leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics should be a doctrinal conservative like John Paul.

South African Cardinal Wilfred Napier said: “It would be great, of course, if it were somebody from the vibrant south.”

“It’s possible for an African Pope to be chosen,” Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson said before leaving Accra for Rome.

But Cardinal Bernard Agre of Ivory Coast said: “Psychologically and spiritually the West isn’t ready to welcome a black Pope.”

Polish Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski appeared to pour cold water on the chances of one top cardinal, 77-year-old Josef Ratzinger of Germany, saying: “The problem is his advanced age.”

The cardinals have not yet read John Paul’s spiritual testament, said Dr Navarro- Walls. They spent the day continuing to work out details of Friday’s funeral, in which John Paul will be laid to rest with regal pageantry near the tomb which is traditionally believed to be that of the first Pope, St Peter.

Dr Navarro-Valls said 91 of the 183 cardinals were in Rome as of Tuesday. Only 117 of them - those under the age of 80 - can vote in a conclave. When a new Pope is elected, the ringing of bells will accompany the traditional signal of white smoke, the Vatican said.

Archbishop Piero Marini, master of ceremonies for liturgical celebrations, said the bells were being added to avoid confusion over the colour of the smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Black smoke signals no decision has been made, while white smoke means a Pope has been elected.

The next Pope is likely to follow John Paul’s conservative bent closely - the late pontiff appointed all but three of the 117 cardinals entitled to vote. John Paul opposed divorce, birth control and abortion, the ordination of women and the lifting of the celibacy requirement for priests, issues that sharply divided the Church.

The cardinals - who are sworn to secrecy on their deliberations - are to review any papers the pope may have left for them.

One may reveal to the college the name of a mysterious cardinal John Paul said he had named in 2003 but had never publicly identified.

The name of the cardinal was held ‘in pectore’, or ‘in the heart’ - a formula used when the Pope wants to appoint a cardinal in a country where the Church is oppressed.

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