Cardinals Meet to Prepare for Papal Vote

Thousands of mourners queued to pay their respects to late Pope John Paul II whose body was placed for public viewing inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Tuesday. The late Polish pontiff died on Saturday at the age of 84. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Thousands of mourners queued to pay their respects to late Pope John Paul II whose body was placed for public viewing inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Tuesday. The late Polish pontiff died on Saturday at the age of 84. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

by Nicole Winfield, Associated Press Writer

The College of Cardinals met Tuesday for a second day to prepare for the election of Pope John Paul II's successor, which will be announced by a ringing of bells in addition to the centuries-old practice of sending up puffs of white smoke.

Tens of thousands of mourners, meanwhile, continued to stream past the pontiff's crimson-robed body in St. Peter's Basilica, where it has lain in state since Monday.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said 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.

The cardinals have not yet read John Paul's spiritual testament, he said. They spent Tuesday continuing to work out details of Friday's funeral, in which John Paul will be laid to rest with regal pageantry near the tomb that is traditionally believed to be that of the first pope, St. Peter.

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.

Brazilian Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, archbishop of Sao Salvador da Bahia, told Italian state radio Tuesday that 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 balloting. Asked if he was "papabile," or having the qualities of a pope, he answered, "I have always said my shoulders were too small for such a heavy weight."

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 color 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.

As the cardinals met, buses unloaded huge groups of students, pilgrims and clergy who joined a line stretching for miles along the wide avenue leading to St. Peter's Square and through the streets of the neighborhood that surrounds the Vatican.

Civil protection officials handed out tea and croissants to those who had waited overnight in unseasonably cold temperatures to view John Paul's body and pay their final respects. Many took photographs with cameras and cell phones.

"It's an extraordinary day," said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, who was greeting pilgrims in line Tuesday morning, flanked by a camera crew and security personnel. He said the crowds were there "to give back to the pope all the love the pope gave to the world."

Rome is bracing for an unprecedented flow of pilgrims some predict their numbers may match the city's own 3 million residents in the days leading to the funeral, which will be attended by kings, presidents and prime ministers.

The doors of St. Peter's Basilica were opened to the general public Monday evening. At 3:00 a.m. Tuesday, an hour later than had been announced, the doors were closed for cleaning and the faithful outside started chanting "Open up, open up!" in protest.

A few gave up and left, but most simply camped out on the side of the road, wrapping up in blankets and sleeping bags. Just before 5 a.m., about 20 minutes earlier than planned, the basilica's doors reopened and people rushed back into line.

"It was sad but amazing; there were so many people in the basilica but it was still completely silent," said Lauren Davia, a 20-year-old American who studies in Rome. Davia saw the pope after a four-hour wait that began early in the morning. Faithful coming during the day could expect to wait for even longer.

Margherita Saccomani, who came from the Tuscan port town of Leghorn to pay her respects to the pope, huddled under a foil blanket with her three children during the wait.

"I hope it's not curiosity but deep faith that brings people here," the 43-year-old Saccomani said. "I am here because I want my daughters to experience this."

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 that has been used when the pope wants to appoint a cardinal in a country where the church is oppressed.

Navarro-Valls said Tuesday he didn't know if the pope had included any mention of the "in pectore" cardinal in any documents given to the cardinals to read. He said if he had any information, he would make it public.

Hundreds of dignitaries are expected to attend the funeral in a city that will virtually shut down for all other purposes.

"It will be a moment without precedent," Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni told Repubblica Radio on Monday. "Rome will grind to a halt to guarantee the full development of the demonstration of love for the pontificate, guaranteeing the maximum security for all the heads of state who will arrive to pay homage to the pope."

President Bush and his wife will attend. Britain's Prince Charles postponed his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles by a day so he could represent Queen Elizabeth II at the funeral. Others attending will include the heads of Muslim states and a delegation from communist Cuba.

On Monday, John Paul's body was removed from the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, where it had been viewed by prelates and dignitaries. Twelve pallbearers in white gloves, flanked by Swiss Guards in medieval uniform, bore the remains on a scarlet platform to the basilica.

On his feet were a pair of the simple brown leather shoes he favored during his 26-year pontificate and wore on many of his trips to more than 120 countries a poignant reminder of the legacy of history's most-traveled pope.

Navarro-Valls confirmed Tuesday that John Paul would be buried in an underground tomb where Pope John XXIII lay before he was brought up onto the main floor of the basilica after his 2000 beatification because so many pilgrims wanted to visit his tomb.

John Paul, who died Saturday, expressed a wish to be buried in the ground as opposed to an above-ground tomb, Marini said.

Navarro-Valls said John Paul hadn't been embalmed, but had been "prepared" for the days of public viewing in the basilica. He didn't elaborate.

Recent popes have been embalmed, although Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, was only lightly embalmed before his body was put on full display in St. Peter's during Rome's hot summer. After two days, the body began to decay.

John XXIII's body, on the other hand, was preserved in excellent condition when it was exhumed in 2001 from the grotto where John Paul will be buried.

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