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Electing a pope: What's taking so long?
Michelangelo's "The Last Judgment" is seen through the Sistine Chapel doors on April 16, 2005. The painting, on the wall above the altar, was completed in 1541.
March 6th, 2013
01:18 PM ET

Electing a pope: What's taking so long?

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Rome (CNN) - In and around the Vatican these days, there's one question everyone keeps asking: When is the conclave to elect the new pope going to start?

The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church aren't saying, but they're sending a clear message: They will not be rushed.

As of the seventh day after Pope Benedict XVI flew off into the sunset, the voting cardinals hadn't even all arrived in Rome, leaving the world wondering what's taking so long.

But don't be fooled. The conclave matters, but it isn't the only game in town. What's happening now is at least as important.

Since Monday, the princes of the church have been meeting in what are called General Congregations - closed-door discussion sessions where all of the world's cardinals can talk about whatever is on their mind.

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Think of it like this: If the conclave is the presidential election, the General Congregations happening now are the primaries - or the caucuses held every four years in Iowa, where friends, neighbors and coworkers meet and discuss why they think their candidate would make the best president.

The conversations won't be that nakedly political, but everyone in the room is sizing up everyone else as they discuss the issues facing the church.

Some of that happens over coffee breaks, as one Vatican spokesman hinted on Monday, the first day of the General Congregations.

"There's a coffee break for about 30 minutes at a special buffet area in the front part of the audience hall," said the Rev. Thomas Rosica. "Cardinals have an opportunity to go down and mix and mingle."

The cardinals aged 80 and over, who are barred by Church law from voting for the next pope, do get to participate in the General Congregations. It's their only chance to set the agenda.

"They want to say what the next pope will hear, because he's probably in that room, and they also want to alert the people who haven't spent so much time in Rome just what the situation really is here as they see it," Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, who participated in the conclave to elect Benedict XVI but is too old for this conclave, said the groundwork is laid during General Congregations.

"By the time the congregations are over, you have a clear idea of who can deal with the problems we've discussed," he said on Sunday.

The cardinals under the age of 80 who elect the pope continue evaluating each other once the conclave begins, Cardinal George said.

"You take people aside and say 'Now, in the balloting today, so-and-so had support and I wasn't even very much aware who he is. Tell me about him," he told CNN before the General Congregations started.

A look at possible papal contenders

But they want to go into the conclave with pretty clear ideas about who should be pope, Cardinal Sean O'Malley said at a news conference Tuesday.

"We want to have enough time in the General Congregations so that when we go into the conclave it's a time of decision," the Boston cardinal said.

"This is a time of discernment and prayer and reflections," he said, referring to the General Congregations.

"Many cardinals are concerned that if there is not enough time spent in the General Congregations then when we get into the conclave it could drag on," he said.

"If you cut short the discussions, the conclave could go on and on and we really prefer to have the discussions done before," he said.

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And how long will the discussions take?

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas, answered that at the same news conference on Tuesday: "It takes as long as it takes."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Vatican

soundoff (512 Responses)
  1. mjschriner

    Throw an altar boy in the room and things will get done quickly.

    March 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  2. hecep

    Well, there is one good thing about churches. Their entrances have very nice doors. Very nice.

    March 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • mzh

      which eventually became an object of worships... thats very sad...

      ppl are so obsessed to see the dead body of pherroh in egypt but they do not think what was the reason for him to be drowned and kept his body for the rest of the mankind as an example...

      O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you. – The Quran: Chapter 4: Verse 1

      March 8, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  3. mikea

    Electing a pope, what takes so long - well look how long it takes to elect a president!

    March 7, 2013 at 8:50 pm |
  4. kevobx

    Have you ever notice, all the people, places and things named saint? *Revelation 15:3 just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. *Ezra 5:4 Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? *Psalm 49:11 Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. *Acts 7:47 But Solomon built him an house. *1st John 3:1 therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. *Proverbs 21:27 The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: *Mark 14:62 And Jesus said, I am: *Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. *Psalm 105:23 Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. (Deuteronomy 28:68)

    March 7, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  5. priestspedovictim

    if there is a god, please take all your catholics to heaven.. And send me to hell, far away from them. Please!!!

    March 7, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  6. mzh

    To Dear Jon : I am glad you asked this question Jon... this is ur homework to find out... just to give you a little hint: it took 23 years to revealed the entire quran to the mankind or to meccans at that time... it revealed based on the incident took place... i.e. Jews asked Muhammad about the soul, Muhammad couldn't answer because he was just a human and did not know about it, so he waited till the revealation comes, then Jibril (Angel Gabreal) came down with wahi (revealations) that tell them that the knowledge is with Allah and so on...
    So the Verse talks about killing does not apply to all... it was revealed during the time of battle between the first generation of Muslims and Meccan (the one did not believe in it but eventually they did)...
    What about Quran talks about 'harming a sould as you are harming the entire mankind and saving a sould as you are saving the mankind'...
    So in my view... ppl around the earth have been tremendously misunderstood about Islam... I take little responsible for it because there are lots of Muslims out there doing wrong things by not knowing which is being represented by our sweet medias to the world... and ppl judging the entier Islam without understanding...
    About women: Islam is the only place where woman gets their right... if you go and study the inherritance laws and divorce laws... you will see... no human can come up with this laws except the one who created the entire universe and this is my challange as well... there are muslim woman they like freedom by not obeying the laws... and that is up to her... everyone of us will be standing in front of The Almighty on that day.... and I believe very strongly that The Almighty is the best just and He would never do any injustice to anyone... so everyone will be getting their reward according to what we do in this life...

    To Dear siren4song: Quran talks about Jesus with very details... one of the verses was revealed to mankind: Jesus is telling to his deciples that He is Allah who is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him and this is the straight path... and there are lot more... I would humbly request you to spare some time and study... and please go to someone who knows and not someone who is a muslim just by name and no actions... because Islam doesn't want only name but action...

    To Dear Susan StoHelit: Thanks for your kind words... Quran has no bad things, not a single tiny little... Arabs at that time were challange to come up with a single verse but they couldn't where they were the best in their language at that time...

    March 7, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  7. Holy Angel's Convent

    They can't keep the nasty Cardinals out of here long enough to get anywhere.

    March 7, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  8. No Fear

    All this hate, how sad. I suspect most anti-Catholics are just on the "Don't tell me what to do" bandwagon.
    It's funny how they think that they "know better", are somehow "smarter"...than a billion people.
    The core of it is, that despite the problems and the man-made issues in the Church, the faith stands firm, is unchanged, and remains true. All of this hatred, and yet the Church continues to grow.....
    Peace be with you....

    March 7, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • The Narrow Way

      I thought Jesus taught us the broad road will lead to destruction and the narrow way will lead to life eternal? Jesus was never governed by a consensus. A Billion people can be wrong!

      March 7, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • OOO

      So.. I suppose you are on the "Please tell me what to do" bandwagon? You do realize that just because a billion, or a billion billion people think something is right, doesn't make it right. If the idea is rational and can be tested, then that makes it right.
      And the fact that faith is firm and unchanged, doesn't make it true, it makes it stubborn. And that is why the faith is NOT growing in edicated parts of the world. It is shrinking.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • The Narrow Way

      Faith is not shrinking anywhere. It is only misplaced. I am not a Catholic and have absolutely no faith in its doctrines and system of theology. However, you are not without faith. I believe "In the beginning God" and you believe "In the beginning Bang". You have far more faith than you even realize to believe absolutely everything came from absolutely nothing.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  9. MZ

    Who is paying for all of this?

    March 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      We are

      March 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Ummmm – really? You don't know?

      March 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • hi

      People from US send the most money to Vatican followed by Germans.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  10. Mah29

    Put the names in a hat and pick. Assume the big guy in the sky guided the hand.

    March 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  11. MagicPanties

    We need to elect a new Santa Claus!

    March 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Holly

      Yes. And this one better be black Santa Claus to appeal to be politically correct. And he better know how to rap the jingle bells.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  12. David

    If they were actually in communication with their great imaginary friend in the sky they could choose a new pope in an instant. But since they can't rely on any divine method they have to do it the hard way.

    March 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The gifts of the spirit are:

      Understanding
      Counsel
      Fort-itude
      Knowledge
      Piety
      Wonder
      Wisdom

      They take time to practice

      March 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Piety?!!

      Bill Deacon "The gifts of the spirit are: ... Piety"
      Isn't "Piety" just church-speak for extremely arrogant and narcissistic?

      March 7, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  13. Lolzors1245

    Pls learn to think for yourselves, u don't need Religion for that folks. No reason to be a mindless drone and slave to Religion. Free yourselves.

    March 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Free Mind

      Who taught you to think like that? Richard Dawkins???.....LOL!!

      March 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Advantage Catholicism – 2000 years of the world's foremost thinkers, theologians, philosophers, scientist, ethicist, educators and saints as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ. I'm glad to support my own thinking with that counsel

      March 7, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
    • sam

      @Free Mind – omg, wow!!!! You burned him sooooo bad lololol ask him if he wants some cold water for it, you are so clever I almost died!!!!

      Meh, j/k, try again.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • sam

      Bill forgot to add 'bullshit'.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sorry sam, BS is what you get when all you have to draw on is your own self.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
    • Free Mind

      Thank You Sam. Neither Richard Dawkins or the Pope is going to tell me what to think and how to believe.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • Free Mind

      Only vegetables thinks for themselves. Everyone else will listen, learn, study, watch, and absorb information from multiple sources and from other people. You show me a mind free from any human or Divine influence, and I'll show you a blooming idiot.

      March 7, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Holly

      You still need a road (a set path) to drive on .. So why not a religion on how to go about your life ... The day you stop driving on roads (a set path) we will give up religion.

      March 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  14. Anti-Catholic Bigot

    It's good to be Born Again and completely delivered from Catholicism!

    March 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Lolzors1245

      LOL @ Religion.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bill

      Why did you leave? I left and came back.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Anti-Catholic Bigot

      LOL @ Atheists and Agnostics
      God always gets the last laugh...hahahaha!!!

      March 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Holy Roller

      Bill never left

      March 7, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Bill

      Really? You know my story? Wow, that's amazing. I didn't enter a Catholic church for over 3 years. Went to Intervarsity, evangelical churches, etc. Do you want me to provide a list of them for you?

      March 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • Holy Roller

      So what Bill...the Jesuits do that all the time! It's called "infiltration".

      March 7, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
    • The_Mick

      I was born ok the first time. Too bad you started out bad.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • EX catholic

      I agree TOTALLY it is indeed a Very good thing!!

      March 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
  15. chubby

    rock paper scissors ?

    March 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  16. Southernsuga

    Catholics want someone who is most Christ-like, not over 70, and can lead the 1.2 billion Catholics in this world. I would like to have another Pope John Paul II.

    March 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Anti-Catholic Bigot

      They sure knew how to pick the "most Christ-like" during the Inquisition....LOL!

      March 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Bill

      Ahh...the Inquisition. What do you know about it? How many were killed by it? Let me guess..."Millions..." No, actually, a few thousand.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Anti-Catholic Bigot

      Nice historical revisionism there Bill!....Sorry, I don't buy the bull!!

      March 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Bill

      I guess they won't let us post links here. Type in the name Henry Kamen. Oxford Historian. No one believes the claptrap of the Inquisition killing millions or tens of thousands. The number put forward is 3000-5000. FAR less than the lovely John Calvin killed in his Geneva region. And far, far less than those 'witches' killed by the Lutherans.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      And most of those killed by the king of Spain for political reasons after the pope prohibited killing as a method of religious inquisition.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • Anti-Catholic Bigot

      Again, nice try Bill. I wouldn't trust an Oxford historical revisionist as far as I could throw him. I'm not a Calvinist. I am an Anabaptist. Our forefathers wrote extensively about the persecutions that came from both the Catholics and Calvinists. There were far more than just a few thousand murdered. That's like saying the Holocaust never happened, or that the Catholic church didn't forge an alliance with Hitler to form the 3rd Reich.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Bill

      Unfortunately CNN is deleting some of my posts. Bigot, in short, the Bible you rely on came from Catholic bishops. Don't bite the hand that has fed you. You can not have the God as your Father without the Church for your Mother. St. Cyprian (3rd century).

      March 8, 2013 at 7:47 am |
  17. rosethornne

    It takes a long time to choose a new Perp be ause they have to weed out all the pedophiles and pedophile-protectors, and that leaves slim pickings.

    March 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  18. mzh

    Hello Mankind,

    Thought to share few verses from Quran addressing to mankind... some may find interesting to get to it to know more details.. like what it talks about Jesus where almost 100 times the name Jesus mentioned in this book and more than 100 times the name of Moses...

    +++++++++++
    O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you. – Chapter 4: Verse 1

    And it is Allah who gives life and causes death, and Allah is Seeing of what you do.

    Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side, the traveler, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, Allah does not like those who are arrogant and boastful.

    Every single soul will taste death.

    That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown [the result of] their deeds.

    So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it.

    And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it.
    +++++++++++++

    March 7, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • jon

      mzn, how about killing the infidels, or keeping women all veiled up? Can you recite that for us?

      March 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • siren4song

      So, Allah is Jesus' Father? What could the Quran have to say about Jesus? The Bible is God-breathed. Your book, not so much.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      jon – you don't really want to compare evil verses – the Bible has more than it's share. From saying that the handicapped shouldn't be allowed in church, to verses where all the people of an entire town are to be massacred, by God's command, every man, woman, child, baby – but keep alive the virgin girls for yourselves! Heck, read Revelations, where God is going to make sure enough people reject him that he can keep them around to torture.

      Both books have good and bad, and plenty and more than enough of the bad.

      March 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
    • mzh

      To Dear Jon: I am glad you asked this question Jon... this is ur homework to find out... just to give you a little hint: it took 23 years to revealed the entire quran to the mankind or to meccans at that time... it revealed based on the incident took place... i.e. Jews asked Muhammad about the soul, Muhammad couldn't answer because he was just a human and did not know about it, so he waited till the revealation comes, then Jibril (Angel Gabreal) came down with wahi (revealations) that tell them that the knowledge is with Allah and so on...
      So the Verse talks about killing does not apply to all... it was revealed during the time of battle between the first generation of Muslims and Meccan (the one did not believe in it but eventually they did)...
      What about Quran talks about 'harming a sould as you are harming the entire mankind and saving a sould as you are saving the mankind'...
      So in my view... ppl around the earth have been tremendously misunderstood about Islam... I take little responsible for it because there are lots of Muslims out there doing wrong things by not knowing which is being represented by our sweet medias to the world... and ppl judging the entier Islam without understanding...
      About women: Islam is the only place where woman gets their right... if you go and study the inherritance laws and divorce laws... you will see... no human can come up with this laws except the one who created the entire universe and this is my challange as well... there are muslim woman they like freedom by not obeying the laws... and that is up to her... everyone of us will be standing in front of The Almighty on that day.... and I believe very strongly that The Almighty is the best just and He would never do any injustice to anyone... so everyone will be getting their reward according to what we do in this life...

      To Dear siren4song: Quran talks about Jesus with very details... one of the verses was revealed to mankind: Jesus is telling to his deciples that He is Allah who is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him and this is the straight path... and there are lot more... I would humbly request you to spare some time and study... and please go to someone who knows and not someone who is a muslim just by name and no actions... because Islam doesn't want only name but action...

      To Dear Susan StoHelit: Thanks for your kind words... Quran has no bad things, not a single tiny little... Arabs at that time were challange to come up with a single verse but they couldn't where they were the best in their language at that time...

      March 7, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  19. Susan

    The whole world drawn-up into a huge fantasy!

    March 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • mzh

      Except the one follows THE TRUTH... its not who is right or who is wrong but The Truth... to understand the truth we have to use our intellectual/brain that we have been gifted with... and also for which we all will be asked on that day...

      March 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  20. allenwoll

    Dingbat mental process known slow.

    March 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.