Lombardi for once lost for words

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 00:00

Vatican responseIt is hard not to feel sorry for Fr Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s senior spokesman.

If ever someone found himself in uncharted territory without a pontifical satnav, it is he. It’s not really his fault, he was not around the last time (1415) that a pope resigned.

During his briefing yesterday, some of the more cynical among the media began to compile a record of the number of times he had to reply that, frankly, he had not a clue or pontifical words to that effect. Fr Lombardi was unable to answer some pretty interesting questions.

Papal ring and seal

For example, when will the conclave to elect the next pope begin? Or, what will Benedict’s post-pope title be? With whom and when will he move into his new quarters in the Vatican? Will he attend the public ceremonies of his successor? When exactly does he depart for Castelgandolfo after the formal end of his papacy at 8pm on February 28th? What will happen to his papal ring and seal, objects that are normally destroyed following the death of a pope? To some extent, some of these questions are of but limited relevance.

However, on arguably the most important issue, the timing of the conclave, the papal spokesman strongly suggested that the process would follow something close to existing practice as laid down by the Apostolic Constitution.

In other words, following the death of a pope, the cardinals must hold a conclave within 20 days of the pontiff’s demise but no sooner than 15 days. So if you read Benedict’s resignation as the start-up to the interregnum process, then the conclave will begin on March 15th – making it more than likely that the new pope will be elected and in situ for Easter celebrations .

Sent out a tweet

While Fr Lombardi came up with little that was new, Giovanna Chirri of the ANSA news agency enjoyed some fame. Chirri was the person whose Latin was good enough for her to understand what Benedict was saying on Monday when he announced his resignation.

Having filed to her agency, she then tweeted the resignation.

The rest is #history.