The General Congregation of Cardinals met yesterday and today to make some important decisions. As I said in my article, the general congregation is a meeting of all the cardinals present in Rome to make important decisions regarding the governance of the Church during the interregnum.
The most important of these past two sessions was setting the date for the beginning of the conclave as April 18.
Yesterday, 88 of the 91 cardinals in Rome met in the congregation. One of the topics discussed was the name of the one cardinal in pectore. Briefly, when the Pope names cardinals, he can keep some names in pectore, (literally, “in the breast”), or secret. No one knows the name of the cardinal, except the Pope and sometimes not even the new cardinal himself. Why would he do that? In some cases to prevent persecution as often happened during the rule of the Communists in Europe. Now if the Pope dies without naming him, then the honorary title lapses. But there is the possibility that the Pope could name him in his will, in which case the honor would be made public and the cardinal invited to participate in the conclave, if he’s under the age of 80. Since the congregation of cardinals read the Pope’s will today, we found out that the Holy Father did not put it in his will.
We’ve also found out that there will be one fewer cardinal-elector than previously thought. Cardinal Jaime Sin, former archbishop of Manila, is too sick to travel to Rome, even though he’s only 76.
Yesterday, we were told by the Vatican that the Pope asked to be buried in the earth and that he will be buried in the spot where Pope Blessed John XXIII had been buried. (Because John XXIII was discovered recently to be incorrupt, his body has been moved into the main part of the basilica.) They also told us that the Pope’s body was not embalmed, which I think is a sign that they’re hoping that someday John Paul’s body will also be found to be incorrupt.
As of today, there were 116 cardinals at the meeting of the General Congregation, out of 122 present in Rome. They made some decisions regarding the funeral and the novendiali, the nine official days of mourning. They also rejected a proposal to bring the Holy Father’s body to St. John Lateran, which is actually his official church as Bishop of Rome. They didn’t that it was technically possible.
The Vatican said this morning that over 1 million have seen the body of the Pope lying in state in one just one day and that up to 5 million people will be present as mourners for the funeral. The wait in line is up to 12 hours long!