VATICAN CITY (AP) — They came, they took an oath of secrecy, and they agreed to send a message to the previous pope, whose resignation has thrown the church into turmoil and unleashed a new wave of scandals.
The cardinals meeting to choose the next pope started work Monday on planning their conclave. Benedict XVI remained holed up at the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo, his temporary retirement home while cardinals pick his successor.
And in a sartorial symbol of the impending transition, a tailor on Monday unveiled three new white papal cassocks — small, medium and large — that will be sent to the Vatican so the new pope has something to wear as soon as he's elected.
"We need to deliver these three garments before the conclave starts because obviously we cannot enter inside the conclave once it starts," tailor Lorenzo Gammarelli said Monday.
Of the 115 cardinals who can vote, 103 were on hand for Monday's inaugural pre-conclave meeting, which over the coming days will discuss the problems of the church and give the cardinals a chance to get to know one another better.
And so they prayed together, chatted over coffee and 13 of them intervened to discuss organizational matters.
The fact that 12 more cardinals are still en route to Rome will mean a delay in setting a date for the conclave since the dean of the College of Cardinals has said a date won't be finalized until all the cardinals have arrived.
Among the first orders of business was the oath of secrecy each cardinal made, pledging to maintain "rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff."
The cardinals then agreed to send Benedict XVI a message on behalf of the group; the text was being worked on, the Vatican said.