VATICAN CITY — The dean of the College of Cardinals celebrated Mass this morning and prayed for a new pope who will embrace the mission of charity with a generous heart.
“My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission (of charity) with a generous heart,” Cardinal Angelo Sodano said in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 12.
“Let us pray that the future pope may continue this unceasing work on the world level,” he said.
Cardinal Sodano gave his homily in Italian and drew out themes from the two readings and the Gospel.
He focused on the importance of love in charity with his reflections on the reading from Isaiah, the necessity of unity in the Church with the reading from Ephesians, and the mission of the future pope in his thoughts on the Last Supper account from St. John’s Gospel.
Expanding on the importance of love for the new pope, Cardinal Sodano looked back at “the last popes” who have been “builders of so many good initiatives for people and for the international community, tirelessly promoting justice and peace.”
The Mass was celebrated in Latin at 10am local time and finished just before noon.
“The basic attitude of every shepherd is to lay down one’s life for his sheep,” Cardinal Sodano said. “This also applies to the successor of Peter, pastor of the universal Church.
“As high and universal as the pastoral office is, so much greater must be the charity of the shepherd,” he added.
Around 5,600 journalists have been given Vatican access to report on the conclave so far, but fewer than 100 were allowed to attend the Mass.
Cardinal Sodano filled out his description of charity by underscoring that Jesus entrusted “the mission of mercy” to the pastors of his Church and that it “must be embraced by every priest and bishop, especially the pope.”
“It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the 'ministry of the word,'” he stated, quoting Benedict XVI’s encyclical on charity, Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love).
“There is no action more beneficial, and therefore more charitable, towards one’s neighbor than to break the bread of the word of God.”
Today’s Mass proceeds the conclave, which will officially begin once the Sistine Chapel’s doors are closed at around 5:30pm Rome time.
The cardinals will process from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel by passing through Regia Hall, beginning around 4:30pm.
They will sing the Litany of the Saints while they walk, and once they arrive in the Sistine Chapel, they will sing Veni Creator Spiritus.
Then, at around 4:45pm, the cardinal electors will all take a general oath together, which will proceed an individual oath.
The papal master of ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, will then declare extra omnes (outside, all), and the doors will be shut.
A possible first vote for the new pope could take place this evening, and, if that happens, the smoke will be seen around 8pm.