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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. Viveca Venegas

    The Cardinals ARE ENJOYING THE PARTY, EATING, DRINKING, RESTING.. THE ELECTION OF THE POPE IS A JOKE. If the next does not make drastic changes, it is time for the church to be reborn or forever die.

    March 9, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Quest ion

      Are you actually there now? Are you seeing that right now? Take pictures of it!

      March 9, 2013 at 9:59 am |
  2. o

    Let it take the same number of years the pope tried to change the calendar year by

    March 9, 2013 at 5:46 am |
    • Science

      Morming o little knowledge.

      Peace

      March 9, 2013 at 5:49 am |
  3. evangelin dangelo

    til I looked at the paycheck for $9222, I didn't believe that my neighbours mother could actualey bringing in money parttime on their laptop.. there best friend has done this less than eight months and just now cleard the morgage on there cottage and bought a new Mercedes. I went here........ BIT40. ℂOℳ

    March 9, 2013 at 3:49 am |
  4. Menu

    God has to decide who will be the best pedophile for the job.

    March 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • mzh

      which God are you referring to? the one xvi says that sometimes it feels that 'The Lord is sleeping'?

      March 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  5. David Witcraft

    So long? What other world leader is chosen, democratically, in a shorter election cycle?

    March 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  6. kevobx

    The most high God knows when he is not wanted. (Revelation 9:11)

    March 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • End Religion

      great, then he should be a good guest and get the hell out!

      March 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  7. EX catholic

    This is like; who cares? I can't care less!

    March 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Quest ion

      If you do not care, then... who does?

      March 9, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  8. kevobx

    God is love, do you love grace and truth? If you are being judged in righteousness, how can you judge them back? If you are being judged in truth, judge them back in truth or shut up. See the angredness in them, all religions are evil. *2nd Corinthians 13:8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. *Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: *2nd John Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. *Isaiah 38:19 The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. *Daniel 6:26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.

    March 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • End Religion

      "When in doubt, attribute a quote to Mark Twain." – Mark Twain

      March 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  9. Big Al

    I do wish they'd hurry up and elect the next sclerotic old pederast bigot so that the rest of us out here in the reasonable world can stop hearing incessantly about this insane 'election' of 'god's chosen' to perpetuate the banditry and oppression of this 'loving' organization.

    March 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  10. Linda Underwood

    You should contact Deacon Brian Buettner at the North Pontifical College for information on the latest pulse on the votes.

    March 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  11. End Religion

    i have an hypothesis that "kevobx" was inspired by the mailman character in Chevy Chase's movie Funny Farm. He drives by, cackling, shoving bible passages into the "post" slot without stopping. Kev, just takes it a little further by "delivering" his spam 4-5 times a day instead of once. But just a batshit crazy, for sure.

    March 8, 2013 at 11:47 am |
  12. kevobx

    Who are those people telling you to be proud? Mark them. The world is digging up lime stones, why is that? *Isaiah 33:12 And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. *Isaiah 33:14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; *Isaiah 37:32 For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: *Psalm 49:12 Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish. *Isaiah 43:20 The beasts of the field shall honor me, the dragons and the owls; *Isaiah 8:21 And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. *John 7:52-53 for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. And every man went unto his own house. *1st Corinthians 11:34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home;

    March 8, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • End Religion

      Hey, lunatic, don't run off so fast without your meds! Darn, missed him again...

      March 8, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  13. kevobx

    The Lion of Judah is against the house of Esau. Free will is two choices, God or Satan and those in the middle are lukewarm people, who have their rewards of things. *Isaiah 1:23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. *2nd Peter 2:7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with fithy conversation of the wicked: *Luke 17:28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; *Daniel 12:13 But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest and stand in thy Lot at the end of the days. *1st Peter 4:7 But the end of all things is at hand: *Revelation 1:3 for the time is at hand: *Mark 14:71 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. *Matthew 22:45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? (1st Samuel 18:22)

    March 8, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • End Religion

      Where are you going so fast, you crazy bastard? Please tell me you don't have children...

      March 8, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • frank

      kevobx must have a big bowl of stupid for a fast lunch

      March 8, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  14. kevobx

    Truthfully speaking, when one tells the truth, people do not have to speak about how honest they are. The water is the gospel, are you thirsty. The bread is the word of God, are you hungry. *1st Corinthians 11:34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come. *Acts 14:29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. (Why did they hang black men off trees? *Galatians 3:13 for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree:) *Exodus 32:7-8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: *1st Timothy 5:15 For some are already turned aside after Satan. *Galatians 3:10 for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. *2nd Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. *Isaiah 43:7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

    March 8, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • End Religion

      Our mid-morning drive-by bable passage. Thanks, you fucking lunatic!

      March 8, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  15. kevobx

    Who said terrorists do not wear suits and ties, you are being judged by clothing. What secrets are thou shall not covet. *James 2:4 Are you not partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? *Galatians 5:18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. *John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. *Galatians 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? *Exodus 24:3 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do. *John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. *Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. *Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; *Matthew 16:4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; *1st Corinthians 14:22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: *Ezekiel 12:11 Say, I am your sign: *Mark 14:62 And Jesus said, I am: *Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM:

    March 8, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • End Religion

      Hey ya crazy bastard, how's it hanging today?

      March 8, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 8, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      March 8, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie.

      March 8, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  17. Bobbery Brawl

    They must decide who has the best pedophile credentials for the job as tens of thousands of Catholic pedophile priests rely on the Pope's continued protection.

    March 8, 2013 at 1:32 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      The most accurate accounting of pedophile priest is 4000-4500 in the last 65 years.

      March 8, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • midwest rail

      Does the "most accurate accounting" take into account the missing 18,000 pages they say they turned over ? Does that take into the severe redaction of the 12,000 pages that were turned over ?

      March 8, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Big Al

      You mean the most accurate reporting of pedophile priests who've actually been reported or caught.

      March 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yeah, if they aren't reported, they don't exist. Just like in he public school system or your uncle's house.

      March 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • .

      More pedophilic apoligetics from our favorite enabler, Bill Deacon. The subject is the RCC, therefore the topic of pedophile abuse within the RCC is bound to come up. Deflection is dishonest, but then you already know that, you old hen. OMG, what a denier you are.

      March 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      Maybe Bill is just steamed that the good father did not choose him

      March 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  18. konkal

    Abuse is not limited to the RCC church. Statistics show it's higher in other organizations and other faiths. 480,00 child abuse . CNN is all about media bias.

    March 7, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • End Religion

      The stats I've seen show church abuse is abut the same as the rest of society. But that's beside the obvious point, that a church is place where people have an expectation of LESS abuse. Otherwise, and what seems to actually be the case, the church is simply a scam and is no "better" than any other average lifestyle. There is no divinity or special expectation that it deserves any more respect than one's local bowling league.

      March 8, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Please post your data ER. You like data don't you?

      March 8, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • End Religion

      bill data isn't handy. I looked into months ago when people were claiming abuse in the church was HIGHER than norms, and I wasn't sure even I believed that. I found a secular study that showed it was about the same. I'm not that interested in looking into it again and I didn't save the links, though I believe I have posted it here before so maybe you can google it on your own.

      March 8, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • End Religion

      start here, if it helps:
      http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/04/07/mean-men.html

      March 8, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I thought people who made extraordinary claims where responsible for providing extraordinary verification? I'm not interested in learning the truth doesn't really cut it. Until you can verify the rates of child abuse among various large organizations, your vilification of the Catholic Church is merely ignorant bigotry. But you already knew that.

      March 8, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • .

      Question, Bill Deacon. When one thinks of the RCC these days, they automatically think of pedophile priests and the RCC blatant cover-up.

      Why?
      Do you think that it is because everyone, including many Catholics themselves, are "ignorant bigots?"

      March 8, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  19. Reality

    "The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:
    One, man intelligent without religion,

    The second, religious without intellect. "

    Al-Ma'arri
    , born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

    Al-Ma’arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth."

    March 7, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
  20. ANTI-CHRIST

    "Truth" is BS. And these are taking so long because they are busy molesting 12 year old boys.

    March 7, 2013 at 10:48 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.