VATICAN CITY: There is no doubt that Pope Paul VI is planning to change the rules governing the election of a new Pope, writes James O'Neill of N.C. News Service.
But there is great confusion as to what the proposed changes are and when he will order them to be published.
A number of Vatican officials confirmed about a year ago that a "study document" on revising rules for the conclaves at which a new Pope is elected is in the works.
On October 4 of this year Federico Alessandrini, head of the Vatican press office, said that "it has been known for sum-: time that the present rules governing the election of a Pope have been the object of study." But. he added. "as far as I know both the contents of the document and the possibility of it being published shortly is strictly a matter of guessing."
Referring to recent news reports that a change in the conclave rules seems imminent. Allesandrini said : "Anyone is free to advance conjectures .:gout these matters. even if they do not know anything."
The National Catholic Reporter, published at Kansas City, in the United States, reported that a "palace revolt.' is shaping up among some top Vatican officials, who are reportedly opposed to papal plans to change the election rules. Among the three cardinals the weekly said have threatened to resign if the changes are made, is Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri, head of the Congregation for Bishops.
A close associate of Cardinal C'unfalonieri, however. said that the report is "absurd." He said that "it would be totally out of character" for the cardinal to threaten to resign.
Moreover. the associate said, "Cardinal Confalonieri is 79 now and will be 80 in July of next year. He will then be no longer permitted to vote for the next Pope. so why should he he in such a state as is claimed?"
1 he other two cardinals allegedly involved in the "palace revolt," according to the American weekly. are Cardinal Franjo Seper, prefect of the Doctrinal Congregation. and Cardinal Giuseppe Siri of Genoa.
A "highly placed Vatican official has said that he seriously doubts that "any major changes will be included in the new rules." such as making all the heads of national bishops' conferences electors of the new Pope. 1 hat change has been reported as one of the new rules.
The fact that the "study document" is under pontifical secrecy makes it all but irhpossible to be certain of what it contains. However, there seems to be a general consensus among Vatican officials consulted that the old rule of keeping the electors under lock and key inside the Vatican to protect their freedom of choice may he on its way out.
It seems very likely that the new synod hall. which is part of the Vatican audience hall complex, could he chosen for the daily conclave meetings and the casting of votes.
In 1963, the Sistine Chapel, the traditional site of the conclave, almost burst its ancient and venerable walls to contain the 80 electors who met to choose Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini as the successor to Pope John XXIII. As of the end of this year there will bz 86 cardinals eligible to participate in a papal election. with the possibilty of more if Pope Paul creates a new group of cardinals.
Despite speculation in Rome and reports appearing in various newspapers, the fact is that until Pope Paul chooses to make public any alterations he may be may be considering. rumours about specifics remain unconfirmed and. as far as the Vatican is concerned. uncan• tirmable.