(VATICAN CITY) The cardinals have just announced that the date for the start of the papal conclave will be March 12th, next Tuesday:

“The eighth General Congregation of the College of Cardinals has decided that the Conclave will begin on Tuesday, 12 March 2013.

“A “pro eligendo Romano Pontifice” Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in the morning.  In the afternoon the cardinals will enter into the Conclave.”

At least in the press office, I was literally the first person to be handed the announcement.  I happened to wander over to the information table when a messenger handed me the bulletin and said something including, “Prima.” I asked a press office official to help me translate, and she informed me that I had the news first — and that I’d better do something with it, fast.

A Tuesday start to the conclave works almost perfectly in terms of the general concerns over the pastoral and liturgical schedule.  While it’s not a necessity for an election to take place by the 17th, it would make the logistics work better for Holy Week preparations.  Furthermore, setting the date for four days hence makes it appear that the cardinals anticipate having had plenty of time to discuss their broad concerns — and perhaps have a good idea on a short list of potential successor to Benedict XVI and St. Peter.

I have also been handed a note prepared shortly beforehand that some journalists will be given a tour of the Sistine Chapel tomorrow.  That would indicate that their security plans are in place for the conclave, and they want to give the media some context for their later reporting.

Addendum: As a side note, I very nearly didn’t make it to the press office today, thanks to general exhaustion from my travels.  I’m feeling much better now.

Update: Since we got a big scoop here, why not put this in the Top Picks to celebrate?  Also, check out my first Vatican Dispatch in the Green Room.

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Illustration by Jett Attwood.

 

Tags: Vatican