There seems to be a general trend in the media to wonder what on Earth is keeping the five “absentee electors”. Cardinals Lehmann, Pham Minh Man, Nycz, Tong Hon and Naguib have missed the first three general congregations, although they are expected to arrive in Rome today or tomorrow. is it because they do not consider their duties in Rome very important, or because of travel distance, or something else altogether?
While we obviously can’t say anything about what any cardinal considers important, it is a safe bet to say that the entire College of Cardinals is well aware of their duties these days. Travel distance is also no longer a good excuse, not even for Cardinals Pham Minh Man and Tong Hon, who have to come from Ho Chi Minh City and Hong Kong respectively.
That leaves “something else” as a possible explanation. The five cardinals mentioned above all have on thing in common: they are ordinaries of a diocese, which is where their first responsibilities lie. So the explanation can be as simple as that: other duties kept the cardinals in Mainz, Ho Chi Minh City, Warsaw, Hong Kong and Alexandria a while longer. Is that a slight towards the other cardinals already gathered in Rome, or an attempt to influence the start date of the conclave? That is a standpoint that is far too cynical for my taste.
And in the case of Cardinal Naguib there is the added fact that his health is not as good as it once was. His recent retirement as Patriarch of the Coptic Catholics of Egypt was also granted for the same reason.
Photo credit: l’Osservatore Romano
Today, all the cardinals of the Church received the official letter summoning them to Rome. Cardinal Sodano, as dean of the College of Cardinals, signed the letter. Cardinal Simonis, emeritus archbishop of Utrecht, was one of the cardinals who received the summons, although, like many others, he is already in Rome. The image below shows the letter in the hands of the cardinal, who won’t be able to vote in the conclave, as he is over the age of 80. But all cardinals, elector or not, are expected to take their responsibilities in managing the goods and needs of the Church and the faithful during the sede vacante, as well as preparing for the conclave.Cardinal Sodano’s letter invites the cardinals to the first two General Congregations on Monday. A date for the conclave may be decided upon then, but that is by no means certain. All indications are that the cardinals want time to talk and think.
The electors number 117, although two of them have chosen to remain at home. So here they are, the 115 cardinal electors who will soon be entering the conclave, which they will not be leaving until they have elected a new Supreme Pontiff. As Emeritus Pope Benedict (how odd it is to write that!) said yesterday morning, the new Pope is among them.
A short primer on who’s who among the electors, ordered by precedence (and from left to right and top to bottom, starting at top left and ending at bottom right, in the collage above):
Who we will see in white on the balcony of St. Peter’s sometime later this month remains anyone’s guess. Only Our Lord knows and, as Cardinal Pell said, it is up to the electors to find out.
Photo credit:  RKK.nl,  collage my own.