- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

VATICAN CITY — Unprecedented efforts to ensure secrecy during preparations for the papal conclave have failed to prevent a steady drip of leaks in the Italian press on the thinking of the cardinals who will elect the next pope.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of the college of cardinals, yesterday decided to keep secret the text of a lecture that the cardinals listened to as part of spiritual preparations for the conclave beginning Monday to choose the successor to Pope John Paul II.

Despite the Vatican-declared news blackout, the Italian news agency AGI within hours published what it said were excerpts from the lecture, which was delivered by the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher of the pontifical household.

The news agency quoted Father Cantalamessa as telling the cardinals that they must guard against “transforming Pentecost into a Babel, as happens when one looks for personal affirmation.”

Instead of seeking personal prominence during the conclave, the cardinals “ought to only search for the glory of God and the realization of his reign,” the priest reportedly said.

No reason was given for the decision to withhold the text of the lecture from the press.

In 1978, similar lectures by the pontifical household preacher were made public ahead of the conclaves that elected John Paul I for his brief 33-day reign and then John Paul II, who died April 2.

Vatican sources noted that in the past, Father Cantalamessa has been an outspoken critic of the Curia, the central government of the Roman Catholic Church, saying that too many of its clerics are “careerists” and are overly driven by worldly ambition.

Cardinal Ratzinger, considered a leading candidate to become the next pope, also is known to favor wholesale reform of the Curia.

Last week, Cardinal Ratzinger also proposed that cardinals shun the press in the run-up to the conclave and refuse any interview requests, an invitation that chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said was accepted unanimously by the “princes of the Church.”

Aides to the cardinals, however, remain accessible, especially to the Italian press.

Il Messaggero newspaper reported yesterday that supporters of the Italian favorite to become pope — Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the archbishop of Milan — were rallying behind him to try to block efforts backing the German-born Cardinal Ratzinger.

Supporters of the conservative Cardinal Tettamanzi have joined forces with liberal cardinals opposed to Cardinal Ratzinger, such as Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a Jesuit who previously was the main liberal hope for the papacy, il Messaggero said.

Under new arrangements for the conclave set out in the apostolic constitution of 1996, the cardinal voters will stay in the recently renovated Santa Martha residence in Vatican City instead of the Sistine Chapel, which was used in past conclaves.

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