(Vatican Radio) 142 of the 207 Cardinals from the College of Cardinals were present
Monday morning for the First General Congregation in preparation for the Conclave
to elect the 265th Successor to St. Peter. Of those present Monday 103 are Cardinal
electors, meaning that 12 Cardinal electors are still on their way to Rome. Emer McCarthy
Many of those still absent are expected to arrive Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning at the latest. According to Fr. Lombardi the Cardinals yet to arrive are: Cardinals Naguib, Rai, Meisner, Rouco Varela, Pham, Grocholweski, Sarr, Nycz, Woelki, Duka, Lehmann and Tong.
The number of Cardinals present was the first and perhaps most important information revealed to a packed Press Office, lunchtime Monday, by Director Fr. Federico Lombardi, in the daily Vacant See briefing.
He said the general congregation, which took place in a "warm, serene atmosphere of great spiritual communion", got underway at 9:30 sharp, with those present taking up their places in the New Synod Hall according to the established precedence : Cardinal Bishops, Cardinal Priests and Cardinal Deacons.
Following a brief welcome address by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano, the College togther invoked the Holy Sprirt. Then, as prescribed by note 12 of the Apostolic Constitution governing papal elections, they recited the first part of the solemn oath for the election of the Pontiff in unison. Then each Cardinal present, made his way to the Book of the Gospels, placed beneath a Crucifix and sealed the oath .
The election then took place of the first 'particular congregation', composed of three representatives, one per order, who will aid the Camerlengo in the government of the Church for a period of three days. The names are chosen by lots and are as follows:
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, for the order of Bishops
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, for the order of Priests
Cardinal Franc Rodé, for the order of Deacons
The Apostolic Constitution, continued Fr. Lombardi, also requires two meditations one during the general congregations and the second before the start of conclave. The first will be given Monday afternoon, by the preacher to the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa.
The Dean also proposed the Congregation send a message to the Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, which was unanimously accepted.
Following a coffee break there were thirteen brief, dense interventions aimed at the organization of the days to come, lasting a total of 45 minutes.
Fr. Lombardi concluded : “The congregation was positive, serene and promising of an intense discussion of needs of church in days to come”.