As the College of Cardinals schedules meetings to elect the next Pope, the Sistine Chapel has been closed to tourists ahead of the conclave, where all cardinals under the age of 80 will vote on the next Pope.
According to the Associated Press, five more cardinals are expected to arrive in Vatican City before the election is scheduled. Pope Benedict XVI, who is now pope emeritus, resigned in February.
Before the conclave, the Sistine Chapel is sealed off from the public, allowing the cardinals to discuss and vote on the new Pope in private. The Sistine Chapel, and Michelangelo’s fresco, was closed to visitors beginning at 1 p.m. local time, AP noted. A temporary floor will be laid down to create a level and safe surface as well as to hide any antibugging devices. A stove will also be installed at the Sistine Chapel that will be used by the cardinals to burn the ballots used in the voting of the next Pope. Another stove will be used to signal a decision has been reached, the Guardian reported.
In total, there are 115 cardinals that are eligible to vote and 110 are currently in Vatican City. Those who hadn't yet arrived include Patriarch Antonios Naguib of Egypt; German Cardinal Karl Lehmann; Vietnamese Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham; Polish Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz; and Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong. All of the Cardinals were expected to arrive shortly, according to Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.
The Cardinals who have already arrived in Vatican City are in pre-conclave meetings, scheduled for the morning, to discuss the Vatican as well as the state of affairs within the Church. According to Rev. Lombardi, some of the topics discussed in the meetings will include an examination of the Vatican and “new cultures.”
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Another focal point of the pre-conclave meetings was a report on the Vatileaks scandals, AP noted. The Cardinals wanted more information, including a summary of the report, as speculation of corruption, as well as money laundering and jealousy within the Church, have surfaced.
The Cardinals also agreed to send a letter to the pope emeritus thanking him for “untiring work in the vineyard of the Lord.”
To learn more about the conclave and how the next Pope will be elected, head here.