When asked if he had considered inviting cardinals to his briefings, Lombardi said he thought about it and decided against it.
‘‘The conclave and the path towards it ... is an election that each member makes in his conscience before God,’’ he said in an email. ‘‘That requires a reflection by the college as a group that can develop and mature in total freedom.’’
He said the oath of secrecy also was a problem, limiting how much cardinals can divulge. And then there’s the matter of which cardinals to invite given the global makeup of the College of Cardinals.
‘‘If some cardinals think it’s useful to communicate, naturally preserving the reserve they've committed themselves to concerning the election, I have no objections,’’ he said. ‘‘I do my part helping journalists.’’
DiNardo acknowledged it was ‘‘more American’’ to brief the media when it was pointed out to him that the U.S. cardinals were the only ones hosting regular readouts of what the cardinals had been up to.
‘‘We want to honor the confidentiality of the discussions, but at the same time let people — and letting our own folks know at home — that we are meeting day by day, there are interesting things happening and we are moving ahead,’’ he said.
That sense of accountability — gleaned after the sex abuse scandal humbled the U.S. church and taught its leaders to be more transparent — is not widespread among church leaders elsewhere. Only a handful of cardinals from other countries have stopped to chat with journalists waiting outside the meetings; a few have granted one-on-one interviews with media, mostly from their home country. None are hosting daily briefings.
‘‘I love the strategy of the U.S. cardinals,’’ said Iacopo Scaramuzzi, Vatican correspondent for the Italian news agency TMnews. ‘‘The others don’t do it for a variety of reasons: Some because they haven’t developed a culture of church transparency, others because they don’t have the means, others don’t have time. But I think the European bishops could follow their example.’’
The U.S. media team is substantive: Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is running the show, and most of the seven U.S.-based American cardinals have come with a spokesperson. Walsh said she has received ‘‘hundreds’’ of requests for one-on-one interviews with the media-friendly Americans.
American cardinals are tweeting and blogging and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, considered a papal contender, is still conducting his weekly radio show, which will broadcast live on SiriusXM’s ‘‘The Catholic Channel,’’ on Wednesday from the North American College.
‘‘As the Vatican is the kingdom of silence, especially during those very specific times, this is a real breath of fresh air,’’ said Frédéric Mounier, the Vatican correspondent for the French Catholic newspaper ‘‘La Croix,’’ who was on hand for Tuesday’s session.
But while such briefings may help journalists liven up their reports, Mounier doubted such openness would improve the chances for an American pope.
‘‘I feel as a consensus here that a U.S. candidate, whoever he might be, has very few chances once in the Sistine’’ Chapel, he said. ‘‘It seems to be just a matter of general feeling against the Uncle Sam. Nothing more than that.’’
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