142 of the 207 Cardinals within the College of Cardinals arrived today at the Paul VI Hall for the First General Congregation in preparation of the Conclave, the first and perhaps most important information revealed to a packed press in the daily Vacant See briefing. Of the 142, 103 are Cardinal Electors, with 12 more Cardinals still traveling to the Vatican. The General Congregation includes the Cardinal Electors less than 80 years of age and those Cardinals over 80, but who are unable to vote.
Cardinal Darmaatmadja will be absent due to heath problems and the rest are expected to arrive later today or Tuesday. According to Fr. P. Lombardi, from the Vatican Press Office, Cardinals Naguib, Rai, Meisner, Rouco Varela, Pham, Grocholweski, Sarr, Nycz, Woelki, Duka, Lehmann and Tong are among those yet to arrive. All Cardinal Electors must be present to begin the Conclave.
Speaking of the First General Congregation, Father Lombardi described the air of the meeting held to organize the Conclave to Vatican Radio earlier today.
(It was) a warm, serene atmosphere of great spiritual communion, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The congregation was positive, serene and promising of an intense discussion of needs of church in days to come.
As outlined by the “12 Apostolic Constitution” governing Papal elections, the Cardinals present recited the first part of the solemn oath for the election of the Pontiff in unison and then each sealed it at the Book of Gospels beneath a Crucifix. Two meditations are also required, one during the General Congregation and one prior to the start of the Conclave.
Three representatives, Cardinal Giovannie Battista Re, for the order of Bishops, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe for the order of Priests and Cardinal Franc Rodé, for the order of Deacons, were chosen to aid the Carmelango in the government of the Catholic Church for a period of three days.
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