VATICAN CITY - During their last meeting before entering the
conclave to elect a new pope, the world's cardinals heard a
report on the Vatican bank and continuing efforts to comply
with international standards to prevent money laundering and
the funding of terrorism.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told
reporters that 152 cardinals, including those over 80 years
old, were present for the final general congregation meeting
The presentation on the bank was given by Cardinal Tarcisio
Bertone, president of the commission of cardinals overseeing
the Institute for the Works of Religion, the formal name of
the Vatican bank. Father Lombardi said Cardinal Bertone's
remarks "completed the series of information" about the
financial health of the Vatican given to the cardinals who,
as a whole, are responsible for running the church when there
is no pope.
Father Lombardi said Cardinal Bertone's presentation was
brief and touched upon the nature of the bank and "the
process of joining the international system of controls" to
ensure it cannot be used for money laundering or financing
The Vatican requested in 2011 that "Moneyval" - the Council
of Europe's Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of
Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism
- evaluate its financial and banking laws. Moneyval's first
report, issued in July, said the Vatican met nine of its 16
"key and core" recommendations to prevent finance-related
However, in December, Italy's central bank said the Vatican
laws were still too weak, and it halted an Italy-based bank's
contract for accepting credit cards at the Vatican. In
February, the Vatican found another provider.
Father Lombardi said 27 other cardinals also spoke at the
"Naturally, because it was the last meeting, many were about
the expectations for the (new) Holy Father, a profile and
expectations," he said.
During the 10 sessions of general congregations, which began
March 4, he said, the cardinals listened to 160
presentations. A few cardinals spoke more than once and a few
did not have a chance at all, Father Lombardi said.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals who
presided over the general congregations, proposed an
afternoon meeting so that all the cardinals who had signed up
to speak could do so, but "the large majority preferred to
conclude" with the morning session.
"The cardinals felt it was time to prepare to move to the
Domus Sanctae Marthae," the Vatican residence where they will
be staying, "and to enter the conclave," Father Lombardi
The Vatican spokesman also told journalists that about 90
people who are not cardinals were scheduled to gather in the
Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace late March 11 to
swear, on penalty of excommunication, to "observe absolute
and perpetual secrecy" concerning "all matters directly or
indirectly related to the ballots cast and their scrutiny for
the election of the Supreme Pontiff."
The 90 include Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary of
the College of Cardinals; Msgr. Guido Marini, master of
liturgical ceremonies; sacristans and other liturgical
assistants; religious-order priests who will serve as the
cardinals' confessors during the conclave; the doctors and
nurses who will help any cardinal needing it; the elevator
operators in the Apostolic Palace; the bus drivers who will
take cardinals from their residence to the Sistine Chapel;
the head of the Swiss Guards and a major from the corps; the
director of the Vatican police and the officers who will
watch over the cardinals; and the cooks and cleaning crew
from the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
Father Lombardi also said that one tiny change had been made
to the list of brief events occurring immediately after a
candidate receives two-thirds of the votes in the conclave -
77 votes - and is elected pope.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the top-ranking cardinal
elector, will ask the cardinal if he accepts the election and
what name he chooses. At that point, the ballots are burned
with chemicals to produce white smoke and announce to the
world a successful election.
The pope goes into the so-called "Room of Tears" and dresses
in a white cassock and the other papal vestments, then there
is a brief prayer ceremony in the Sistine Chapel with the
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the top-ranking cardinal deacon,
will go to the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica and announce
the election to the crowds in St. Peter's Square.
Before stepping out on to the balcony, Father Lombardi said,
the new schedule calls for the new pope to stop in the
Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace to pray briefly before
the Blessed Sacrament.
Then the pope comes out onto the balcony and gives his first
blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world).