- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2005

ROME — The Roman Catholic Church’s cardinals decided yesterday to shun journalists in the run-up to their conclave to elect a new pope as the Vatican said only John Paul II’s successor can put him on the path to sainthood.

“The cardinals, after the funeral Mass of the Holy Father, began a more intense period of silence and prayer, in view of the conclave,” the Vatican’s chief spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, told reporters a day after millions attended the funeral ceremony for the pope in St. Peter’s Square and elsewhere in the Eternal City. “They unanimously decided to avoid interviews and encounters with the media.”

In all, 115 cardinals will participate in the conclave to begin on the afternoon of April 18 after attendance at a solemn Mass to ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit, Mr. Navarro-Valls said. All the cardinals under age 80 can vote for the next pope, but two, Cardinal Alfonso Antonio Suarez Rivera of Mexico and Cardinal Jaime Sin of the Philippines, are too sick to attend, he said.

The beatification of Polish-born John Paul II, which would put him on the track to sainthood as demanded by thousands of pilgrims during the funeral Friday, would be “the exclusive competence” of the new pope, the spokesman said. He said the cardinals made the decision not to give any more interviews at a meeting attended by 130 of them yesterday.

St. Peter’s Basilica was reopened to the public yesterday and tens of thousands of pilgrims visited St. Peter’s Square and waited in line to enter the basilica in spite of rainy weather.

Cardinals traditionally avoid the media as the conclave approaches, but many of the “princes of the church,” as they are called, also have been taking advantage of the final days of liberty before the intense balloting starts to enjoy some of their favorite restaurants around the Vatican for deliberations over lunch or dinner, Italy’s Panorama magazine reported.

Because there may be little time for eating during the conclave, some of the cardinals, such as Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, have been sampling their preferred Italian dishes, the magazine said.

“During their wait, the high prelates allow themselves some gastronomic transgression,” Panorama said.

Cardinal Keeler is particularly fond of a spicy pasta dish, a traditional Roman recipe with a sauce made from red hot chili and olives that translates in English as “pasta streetwalker-style.”

Other cardinals are fitness fanatics such, as Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, France, who hopes to be able to jog in the Vatican gardens as the conclave approaches.

During the conclave, the cardinals will stay in 105 suites and 26 single rooms at the recently restored St. Martha Hostel in the Vatican, described by Panorama as “a five-star fortress.”

Before the conclave, the renovated hostel will be “swept” by Vatican security experts to ensure there are no listening devices. The use of cellular telephones during the deliberations is forbidden.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz, Germany, was quoted by the German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung as saying race and background will play a role in the choice of the next pope, but that there were no clear favorites and “probably also no firm alliances.”

“One must be moved through voting, contacts and discussion to a consensus,” he was quoted as saying.

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