CNS PHOTO | VATICAN CTV VIA REUTERS
Cardinals from around the world are seen entering the Vatican's Sistine Chapel March 12 to begin the conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI.
Invoking the aid of the Holy Spirit and the holy men and women from all over the world recognized as saints, 115 cardinals processed slowly into the Sistine Chapel to begin the process to elect a pope.
Once in the chapel, the cardinals vowed that, if elected pope, they would faithfully fulfill the ministry of universal pastor of the Church and would defend the rights and freedom of the Holy See.
They also solemnly swore to scrupulously follow the rules for the election of a pope and keep secret the results of the votes, unless they have express permission from the new pope to reveal details.
Sodano calls papacy a source of Church unity
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY – Hours before the start of the conclave that will choose the next pope, the dean of the College of Cardinals celebrated the papacy as a source of unity among Catholics and of evangelization and charitable service to the world.
Christ "has established his apostles and among them Peter, who takes the lead, as the visible foundation of the unity of the Church," Cardinal Angelo Sodano said in his homily at St. Peter's Basilica March 12.
"Each of us is therefore called to cooperate with the successor of Peter, the visible foundation of such an ecclesial unity."
Sodano, 85, concelebrated the Mass for the election of the Roman pontiff with some 170 other cardinals.
Sodano cited Pope Benedict's warning that charity must not be reduced to "solidarity or simply humanitarian aid," since the "greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the 'ministry of the word.'"
"The last popes have been builders of so many good initiatives for people and for the international community, tirelessly promoting justice and peace," the cardinal said.
"Let us pray that the future pope may continue this unceasing work on the world level."
After reciting the oath together, each cardinal walked up to the Book of the Gospels, put his right hand on it, said his name and sealed his oath.
The portion filmed by Vatican television ended with Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, saying, "Extra omnes," ordering out everyone not authorized to remain.
Among those staying behind was 87-year-old Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech, an Augustinian priest and expert on the fathers of the early Church.
The cardinals had chosen him to give a meditation "on the problems facing the Church" and "on the need for careful discernment in choosing the new pope."
The cardinal electors began their walk to the Sistine Chapel while chanting the Litany of the Saints.
They chanted requests that God would have pity on them. They invoked the aid of Christ, asking for his mercy and protection. They also prayed for the needs of those who have died and those threatened by hunger and war.
When they reached the chapel, the cardinals sang the ancient invocation of the Holy Spirit, Veni, Creator Spiritus.
The English version of the first verse usually is sung as: "Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest, and in our hearts take up thy rest."