“We are living in a particularly beautiful and intense moment”

Those are the words of Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, from today’s briefing to reporters:

“We are living a particularly beautiful and intense moment,” Fr. Lombardi said. “We have reached the final stage of the period that begin last month with Benedict XVI’s renunciation and that will conclude with the election of his successor. We can feel the excitement growing: we can see it and feel it. Yesterday evening there was already a large number of people awaiting the “fumata”, even more than I was expecting. This is already an indication of the serene and joyful climate that characterizes these days and reminds me of the election, eighth years ago, of Benedict XVI when people gathered as quickly as they could arrive, on foot because the traffic was blocked, filling St. Peter’s Square to welcome their new bishop, the Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Universal Church. Then and now we feel the affection that the Romans hold for the Pope, always welcoming him warmly wherever he might come from.”

Turning then to the negative result of the first three scrutinies, Fr. Lombardi said: “Yesterday nobody was expecting a white “fumata”, nor today either. This is very normal. Looking back over the Conclaves held in the last century, only Pius XII, at the outset of the Second World War, was elected at the first scrutiny.” He also explained that, in his opinion, none of the cardinals participating in the Conclave are ill. “The rapidity of the vote shows it. Making use of the ‘Infirmarii’ (those who bring one of the voting urns to any cardinals who are too ill to attend the proceedings in the Sistine Chapel) would require more time. That is why I think that they are all within the Sistine Chapel….”

…He also noted that, still referring to yesterday, he greeted Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household and personal secretary of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who told him that the Pope is carefully following the events of these days and that he listened to the “pro eligendo Romano Pontifice” Mass celebrated at the Vatican Basilica yesterday, which was presided over by the Cardinal dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Fr. Lombardi added that the Pope emeritus will not participate in the Mass to inaugurate the new papacy and that, although Archbishop Ganswein will remain at the Vatican until the conclusion of the Conclave, Benedict XVI has the assistance of another personal secretary at Castel Gandolfo.

To give an idea of the atmosphere in the Conclave, Fr. Lombardi repeated a few words from the German Cardinal Karl Lehman, who has previously participated in another Conclave. Before entering the one in process, he explained that the atmosphere inside the Sistine Chapel is not cold or overly ceremonial but of a great spirituality and, at the same time, solemnity. “They slowly approach the altar with their ballot well-visible and, [after swearing the conviction of his vote], each also returns to his seat slowly. The cardinals do not speak loudly and the atmosphere, presided over by Michelangelo’s ‘Final Judgement’ gives a very strong impression that cannot be overlooked,” the cardinal reported.

Fr. Lombardi then spoke of how the cardinals pass their time at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. He said that the electors have complete freedom to use the time as they see fit: resting, praying in the chapel, exchanging opinions in order to arrive at their choice, etc….

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