A telegram - signed by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano – was sent to Benedict XVI by the prelates which met this morning, 5 March, in the Synod Hall at the Third General Congregation.
“The Cardinal Fathers meeting in the Vatican for their General Congregations with a view to the upcoming Conclave”, the text reads, “send you in unison a devout greeting, together with the expression of their renewed gratitude for the whole of your luminous Petrine ministry and for the example you have given them of generous pastoral solicitude for the good of the Church and of the world. Their gratitude is intended to represent all the gratitude of the Church for your tireless work in the Lord's vineyard. Lastly, the members of the College of Cardinals trust in your prayers for them and, likewise, for the entire Church”.
One hundred forty-eight prelates participated in the Congregation, held between 9:30 a.m. and 12:40 p.m; 110 of them were electors. There were 103 cardinals present yesterday morning at the First Congregation and Cardinal Räi, Cardinal Meisner, Cardinal Woelki, Cardinal Sarr and Cardinal Duka arrived yesterday afternoon. In addition Cardinal Rouco Varela and Cardinal Grocholewski arrived this morning.
At the Congregation – which took place in a climate of much freedom and in a spirit of brotherhood and mutual respect – 11 prelates spoke. At the center of their speeches were the activities of the Holy See and of various dicasteries and their relationship with the episcopacy; the renewal of the Church in the light of the Second Vatican Council; the situation of the Church and the needs of the new evangelization in the various cultural realities of the world. Thus far 33 cardinals have spoken, representing all of the continents.
Next Bishop Sciacca, Auditor General of the Apostolic Camera, read number 37 of the Apostolic Constitution Universi dominici gregis (modified on 22 February by the Motu Proprio Normas nonnullas) regarding the modalities and the date of convocation of the Conclave. In view of this, he read a note from the Direction of the Vatican Museums, stating that at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 5 March, the Sistine Chapel closed.
The cardinals then decided that at 5:00 p.m. on 6 March they will meet at the altar of St Peter's Basilica for a prayer meeting.
At the Second Congregation, held on Monday afternoon, 4 March, nine prelates spoke, following the meditation of Capuchin Friar Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher of the Papal Household.
There will be no General Congregations on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday.