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Posted April 12, 2005 3:15 p.m. CDT

Little specific about cardinals' talks
Some said to petition for John Paul's sainthood

 By Stacy Meichtry
Vatican City

As the Italian media buzzed with rumors that some cardinals were petitioning to put John Paul II on the fast track to beatification, the Vatican announced Tuesday that official meetings between the prelates have begun to address issues facing the future of the church.

During the eighth session of the General Congregation—a daily meeting among cardinals that convenes at the New Synod Hall—both voting and non-voting cardinals “began an exchange of ideas on the general situation of the Church in the World and on the Holy See,” Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.

Navarro-Valls did not elaborate on what topics were addressed in the exchange. Cardinals have not spoken publicly with the media since the start of a self-imposed blackout announced Saturday. Prior to that announcement, however, prelates voting in the next conclave expressed concerns ranging from a lack of sufficient collegiality between Rome and local dioceses, to the pervasion of secularity in Europe, to the Church’s rivalry with Islam in Africa and Asia.

Later Tuesday, Cardinale Eugźnio Sales de Araśjo presided at the fifth Memorial Mass of the nine official days of mourning, known as the novemdiales.

Before a packed basilica, the conservative Sales de Araujo said that John Paul II “taught us fidelity to the doctrine of Christ.”

All of the cardinals present in Rome were reported to have attended the mass. They subsequently processed down to the basilica crypt to pray before the tomb of John Paul II.   

The Italian media, meanwhile, was rife with speculation over the beatification of John Paul II following a Tuesday report in Corriere della Sera of Milan that the General Congregation had produced a signed petition calling for the next pope to put John Paul II on a fast track for beatification.

Citing an unnamed cardinal who has attended the meetings, Corriere reported that some cardinals did not sign the petition out of concern that it could put unorthodox pressure on the next pope.

“If the future pope is one of the signatories, does this mean he must stay faithful to his signature? If instead he isn’t one who signed, should we expect his resistance based on principle?” Corriere quoted the cardinal as saying.

After the signing, the petition was reportedly handed over to Cardinal Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals.

Corriere reported that the petition was prompted by the cries of “Santo, Santo,” or “Saint, Saint,” that occurred during Friday’s funeral for John Paul II.

In an interview with Corriere published on Monday, Archbishop Edward Nowak, the number two official in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the curial department in charge of beatifications, described public proclamation akin to Friday’s cries as an “initial” step toward early sainthood.

“It isn’t necessary to await the judgment of the Congregation for Causes of Saints with all of its steps. The Congregation is an instrument, but if the (next) pope decides to proceed on his own, he can do it,” he said, citing John Paul II’s decision to fast-track Mother Teresa’s canonization as a precedent.

Speaking to a press conference last Thursday, Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, a papabile, said early canonization did not adhere to canon law, which requires a minimum five-year waiting period. “The beatification of a man cannot happen before five years after he’s dead. We are three days after he’s dead,” he said.

Vatican also announced Tuesday that Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo, the camerlengo, sealed the papal apartment. It will remain closed until its new occupant claims it.

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