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Suspense grows over conclave date

06 March 2013, 14:00

Vatican City - Suspense over the date of the conclave to elect a new pope intensified on Wednesday as some cardinals called for more time for debate and seized the chance to speak out about the problems facing the church and what the future holds.

"We need a new way of governing the church. A more horizontal government. The Curia must be revolutionised," German Cardinal Walter Kasper said in an interview with La Repubblica daily, referring to the Vatican's bickering governing body.

The Curia has become one of the key issues of debates surrounding the future of the church after secret papal documents leaked to the press last year in a scandal dubbed "Vatileaks" alleged corruption and intrigue in the administration and infighting many hope the new pope will tackle.

"I think the Curia in general, beyond whatever emerges from Vatileaks, needs to be revolutionised. And as well as the word reform, there must be a second: transparency. The Curia must begin to open up, and not fear transparency," Kasper said.

Though the centuries-old bureaucracy should serve the papacy, it has the power to block or water down papal decisions and has been criticised for playing politics under Benedict.

There have been calls for details of an in-house investigative report about "Vatileaks", and some electors have been openly reluctant about speeding up the vote without knowing all the facts.

"This is time for a long reflection. This conclave needs to be prepared calmly. There is no hurry," Kasper said, while US Cardinal Francis George simply said: "We are not ready yet."

"I'm not saying Vatileaks will be a determining factor but I do want to know all pertinent aspects," said US Cardinal Sean O'Malley. "We have to take all the time we need."

The Vatican has said it wants a new pope in place by Easter, and before he retired Benedict XVI authorised cardinals to move the date of the conclave forward from the traditional 15 to 20 days following his departure, since they are not mourning a dead pope.

Setting a date

On Tuesday, spokesperson Federico Lombardi said it was not necessary for all of the 115 cardinal electors - cardinals below the age of 80 - to be present in Rome for the date to be set, though there seemed to be some confusion among cardinals as to whether they had to wait for three colleagues still missing to arrive.

"It's not a question of rules. Even if all the cardinal electors were here in Rome I would still not want to go into the conclave now," George said in an interview with La Stampa daily.

"We need the necessary information to be able to make the right choice. What went wrong, to create this break in trust within the government of the Holy See? It is a concern, and one we've not had a formal report about," he added.

Rumours continued to swirl over who is the most likely candidate to occupy St Peter's chair after Benedict's resignation, though analysts have said the field is still wide open.

"I can tell you that the list of papal contenders is growing rather than shrinking," George said.

"The names bandied around in the newspapers make sense, but we are also talking about candidates that have not been mentioned so far," he said.

Meanwhile, "Pope Emeritus" Benedict, who retired last week to the papal summer home of Castel Gandolfo near Rome, found himself back in the media on Wednesday as paparazzi photographs of the 85-year old in a baseball cap strolling in the garden were splashed all over the newspapers.



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