By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
The cardinal from Vietnam has finally arrived (He was met by Vietnamese staff of Vatican radio, which reaches all around the world), so cardinals can now make the decision about when to start the conclave. Rumors among Italian journalists, which were denied by the Holy See Press office, were that the opening Mass would be Monday. The press office also showed a video of conclave preparations, which included laying a floor in the Sistine Chapel, darkening windows and moving in a stove to burn ballots. We also saw men turning over the sod where a floral papal coat of arms had been planted in front of the Casa Santa Marta. Out goes the pope; out go his flowers. Wonder if new ones will be planted while waiting for the next pope.
The media were filling all spaces at the regular press office (the overflow press facility is in the Vatican audience hall). Cindy Wooden and Frank Rocca were in the Catholic News Service booth and Nicole Winfield and Daniela Simpson were working at the other end of the room in the AP booth. Jason Berry was among journalists standing about. Father Tom Reese, now of National Catholic Reporter, was heading back to the Jesuit curia residence, where he stays, because he needed a land line for a radio interview.
We’re trying to organize briefings of experts and have lined up two liturgical stars. We’re working out details now. Our hope is to give media information to help them explain what is going on using correct liturgical terms and to explicate the symbolism which surrounds the event.
ABC’s planner stopped by our office at North American College. She is looking for what she descried as a “spotter,” someone who will recognize cardinals on sight. She has sheaves of paper on anyone who remotely might be considered “papabile,” a likely candidate for pope. At this point she seemed to have info on 20 percent of the conclave voters. Thierry Bonaventura, media officer for the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, also stopped by our office. He’s working out of the press office so was coveting our three printers, two televisions and stock of water, soda, peanut butter and crackers – and a second box of my favorite cookies, Walkers Shortbread, another food gift from ABC.
Angela Flood, who is staying at the apartment of Sister Rebecca Abel, NAC librarian, hosted communication directors in Sister Rebecca’s living room at six tonight. It was the best of Italian cheeses, olives, and salami. Joe Zwilling of New York, Mar Munoz and Don Clemmer of USCCB, Tod Tamberg of Los Angeles, Colleen Dolan of Chicago and I enjoyed the six o’clock break before getting back to computers or meeting cardinals returning from their evening meeting.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh is media relations director of the USCCB.