During the “Sede Vacante”, the College of Cardinals leads the Church. But its powers are limited to tasks and decisions which can not be postponed.
Decrees, issued by the Popes, must not be corrected or changed during this time.The interim administration of the Church is run by the Camerlengo and his three Cardinal assistants. The College of Cardinals prepares in particular the election of the new Pope.
With the beginning of the “Sede Vacante”, the Catholic Church and the Vatican State are temporarily run by the College of Cardinals. The Dean of the College, ex-Cardinal Angelo Sodano (85), invited the 208 cardinals to General congregations in the Apostolic Palace, held daily until the start of the conclave.
115 Cardinals at the Conclave
Since many cardinals already gathered in the Vatican, the meeting will start on Monday. Key task is to determine the start date for the conclave, that could possibly begin on the weekend a few days later. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said: “As of today, 115 cardinals will be coming to the Vatican to elect a new Pope. Benedict XVI. paved the way for a quick appointment of a date just a few days ago.
Longer stay at Castel Gandolfo
Benedict’s stay in Castel Gandolfo is expected to be longer than originally planned. According to Italian media, Ratzinger will spend up to three months at the papal summer residence, and not just until the end of April as previously thought. The restoration work of the Nunnery “Mater Ecclesiae” in the Vatican, in which Benedict will retire, will take longer than previously anticipated.
This is probably a clever move to keep the Emeritus Pope outside the media spotlight, as there have been ongoing discussions on how the relation between the new Pope and Josef Ratzinger may be in the future, and what role the Emeritus Pope will play in the upcoming Conclave and in the years to come. It should be noted, however, that Cardinal Ratzinger has not mentioned a possible successor with a single word, or expressed his preference for any of the candidates, in public.