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Conclave has begun

Catholic World News - March 12, 2013

The conclave that will elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI has begun.

The cardinal-electors filed into the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday afternoon, March 12, and each took a solemn vow to maintain the secrecy of the conclave. Then Msgr. Guido Marini, the pontifical master of ceremonies, issued the order: “Extra omnes,” everyone but the cardinals and a few support personnel were ushered out, and the doors of the Sistine Chapel were closed.

During their first session on Tuesday afternoon the cardinal-electors will hear a sermon preached by Cardinal Prosper Grech, an 87-year-old Biblical scholar, on the importance of their task. Cardinal Grech, who is too old to qualify as an elector, will then be escorted out, and the cardinals will take an initial vote. The results of this first vote are expected to be inconclusive, but may give the electors a sense of which candidates are most likely to win the required two-thirds majority.

On Tuesday morning the cardinals concelebrated a Mass pro eligendo Romano Pontifice, with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, presiding. In his homily the cardinal said that a good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. “This also applies to the Successor of Peter, pastor of the universal Church,” he said. “As high and universal the pastoral office, so much greater must be the charity of the shepherd.”

True charity, Cardinal Sodano continued, involves spreading the good news of salvation, preaching the Gospel, as well as providing material support for all those in need. He concluded his sermon by saying: “My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a Pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart.”

Cardinal Sodano began his homily by offering thanks for the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI. He was interrupted at that point by long applause.

Following the Mass the cardinals had lunch, and then began their solemn procession into the Sistine Chapel. The cardinals wore solemn expressions as they walked, singing the Veni Creator Spiritus to ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their deliberations.

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