May 23, 2013
Cardinals pray before conclave to choose new pope
Roman Catholic Cardinals prayed for spiritual guidance ahead of a closed door conclave to choose a new pope to lead the Church at one of the most difficult periods in its history.
Cardinals will hold a last pre-conclave meeting on Monday to fine-tune a job description for the man they think would be best-suited to lead a Church hit by sexual abuse scandals around the world as well as allegations of corruption in the Vatican itself.
The 115 cardinals who will then take part in the election from Tuesday took a day of rest from pre-conclave meetings to celebrate Masses in Rome, either in the quiet of private chapels or in the grandeur of Rome's great cathedrals and basilicas.
"The conclave is just around the corner. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit gives the Church a man who can lead her in the footsteps of the great pontiffs of the past 150 years," said Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, at his Mass in Rome.
Scola, 71, is considered the leading Italian candidate to succeed Pope Benedict, who cast the 1.2. billion-member Church into uncertainty last month when he became the first pontiff in six centuries to abdicate instead of ruling for life.
"We need to make the right decision," Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo, 63, who is considered Latin America's leading candidate, said at his public Mass in a small, Baroque church packed with well-wishers and reporters.
Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley asked God to "enlighten the Church" so the cardinals would choose a pope to confirm everyone in the faith.
Other cardinals such as Manila's Luis Antonio Tagle, who is considered a long-shot because of his relatively young age, 55, kept a lower profile, mostly staying inside the walls of seminaries or other religious institutions.
At the Vatican, St Peter's Square was eerily quiet without a pope for the second consecutive Sunday. The windows of the papal apartments overlooking the square remained closed.
Benedict, who is now "Pope Emeritus" and has no residual authority over the Church, is at the papal summer retreat south of Rome while his permanent residence in a Vatican convent is being prepared.
"This is a time of overall crisis but also a time of crisis in faith," Italian bishop Rino Fisichella told Italy's Tgcom24 television, adding that he hoped a new pope would appear from the window next Sunday.