Updated 03/08/2013 06:59 AM
Last cardinal arrives in Rome as conclave speculation swells
Speculation is mounting that the papal conclave could start as early as Monday after the last of the remaining voting-age cardinals arrived Thursday in Rome. Vivian Lee filed the following report.
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VATICAN CITY – At their daily press briefing Thursday, Vatican officials showed the latest work on the Sistine Chapel to prepare it for the conclave.
The elevated platform for the cardinals' seats is taking shape and the chapel's windows were darkened to keep prying eyes out.
The garden in Vatican City once arranged in the form of Benedict's seal has also been razed.
On day four of the cardinals' general meetings, church affairs dominated with the cardinals receiving a report card on Vatican finances, which usually happens when there's a papal turnover.
"As one of the American cardinals told us in a press conference, we are not in a rush here. And to me that signals that either the general congregations, these meetings that include non-voting cardinals, or the conclave itself or vote or both will go for quite a while," said Alejandro Bermudez of the Catholic News Agency.
Meanwhile, there's some speculation that a special prayer service called the Pro-Eligendo and designed for a papal election will take place soon at St. Peter's Basilica.
It often precedes a conclave to vote for a new pope.
Reverend John Cush, a Brooklyn priest studying theology in Rome, says it's also a service Catholics around the world are encouraged to attend when there is no sitting pope to summon positive energy for the cardinals that they will make the right choice.
"It gets everyone realizing that they too have a role in the conclave," Cush said.
All 115 voting cardinals are now in Rome with the arrival Thursday of Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Vietnam.
That clears the way for a decision on when to begin the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor. But barring that decision before the weekend, cardinals could decide to continue their general meetings through Saturday, then rest to observe the Christian Sabbath on Sunday.