While there is strong speculation the conclave to pick the next pope will begin Monday, the cardinals have not yet officially set a date. The Vatican spokesmen say the “mood” is that their discussions are not done and they aren't ready to vote.
The Roman Catholic cardinals held their fifth discussion Thursday morning but are still waiting for the cardinal from Vietnam, arriving in Rome today. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said they realize the “huge responsibility placed on the shoulders of the cardinals” and do not want to rush their decision of who will succeed Benedict XVI.
The cardinals meet again Thursday afternoon, but a Vatican spokesman does not necessarily believe the conclave date will be set then either. While they have not yet scheduled a Saturday session, it is a possibility.
In a Vatican briefing that lasted more than an hour, Rev. Thomas Rosica said the cardinals are examining “the character of the next pontiff.” As for silencing the American cardinals who had been giving daily updates, Rev. Lombardi said the cardinals made that decision and was not part of the oath.
In the meantime, Vatican workers are painting the scaffolding inside the Sistine Chapel, as well as installing equipment to jam any attempts to eavesdrop on the secret proceedings. They also are darkening the windows of the chapel to protect the secrecy of the proceedings.
In an outward sign of the transition underway, they removed Benedict’s coat of arms from shrubs and flowers of the Vatican gardens.