Vatican City, 12 March 2013 (VIS) – This morning started a little later than usual in the Vatican. At 7:00am the first faithful starting arriving at St. Peter's on foot. The 115 Cardinal electors were already within the City State's walls. Each one carried his small suitcase and took the functional but austere room that had been assigned to, not chosen by, them at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The largest one remains vacant. The one they choose as Pope, the 266th successor of Peter, will live and work there until the papal apartments are made ready for him.
In St. Peter's Square, in front of the Basilica's facade, an enormous platform has been erected for the world's major broadcasters. Permanently accredited correspondents work from their desks within the Holy See's Press Office in Via della Conciliazione. Nearby, another building has been wired for all the media that is arriving for the occasion: the Media Centre, which currently occupies the spacious lobby of the Paul VI Hall. So far, more than 5,600 journalists have been accredited for the occasion. The terrace on the Charlemagne Wing of Bernini's colonnade around St. Peter's Square has also been taken over by journalists. On the ground and in the most varied places you will find many who are connected through social networks, the “digital continent”, linking the entire world. They are all focused on the spot that Vatican Television has aimed a fixed camera at: the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel where a black or white puff of smoke will emerge.
Precisely at 10:00am, with St. Peter's Basilica beautifully lit, the “pro eligendo Romano Pontifice” Mass began. Presided by the Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, the over one hundred cardinals gathered concelebrated, Cardinal electors as well as those over 80, representing all of the populated continents of the globe. The celebration was open to all the faithful who wished to attend as well as members of the diplomatic corps of the 179 countries with which the Holy See maintains ties. Each held the Mass booklet, either collected at the entrance or downloaded from the Vatican website.
After the readings, the first was given in English and the second in Spanish, Cardinal Sodano delivered his homily. It was interrupted with a long applause when the cardinal referred to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, thanking him for his eight years of fruitful service to the Church. Cardinal Sodano asked the cardinals to work together to contribute to the unity of the Church. Together with unity he spoke of charity, asking them to “ceaselessly work to promote Justice and Peace”.
The multilingual Mass also included Mass parts in Latin, and Prayers of the Faithful in French, Swahili, Portuguese, Malay, and German. During the offertory procession the choir sang a motet by Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.
The ceremony concluded after an hour and a half. Outside the sun shone, it rained, loud thunder was heard, none of which discouraged the hundreds of persons who were following the Mass inside on the six jumbo screens installed around the square.
At 1:30pm, the Cardinal electors ate lunch at the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Already beginning now, the only people who they will have contact with are those who will ensure their safety, domestic staff, and the minibus drivers who will ferry them back and forth from the Sistine Chapel to the Domus.
At 3:45pm, the cardinals will return to the Apostolic Palace. They will begin their procession to the Sistine Chapel from the Pauline Chapel singing “Veni Creator Spiritus”, invoking the assistance of the Holy Spirit. They will take the oath in which they promise to maintain the secrecy of the proceedings. When the Master of Ceremonies pronounces the phrase “Extra omnes” all those not taking part will leave the chapel, its doors will be shut, and the Conclave will begin.