Cardinals’ spartan lodgings made for quiet reflection



This handout picture released by the Vatican Press Office on March 9, 2013 shows the pope’s to be elected temporary apartments in the Casa Santa Marta, the residence inside the Vatican where the cardinals electors will eat and sleep between votes during the conclave. AFP PHOTO/OSSERVATORE ROMANO

VATICAN CITY—The 115 cardinals who will start meeting on Tuesday to elect the next pope are lodging at Casa Santa Marta, a residence near the Sistine Chapel where they will be casting their votes.

The spartan atmosphere is designed for quiet reflection, but conditions have improved for the “princes of the Church” who can now boast en-suite bathrooms.

Since the rooms in the former hospice normally occupied by Vatican employees are of varying degrees of comfort, they were assigned by lot during one of the “general congregations” — or pre-conclave meetings.

The residence has its own elegant chapel, sleek marble floors, stained-glass windows and sculptures.

The dining hall looks out over a winter garden and a wall decorated with modern bas-reliefs.

Mealtimes will be spartan as well. The diet of soups, boiled vegetables, pasta and roasts is more like hospital fare than that of a Roman trattoria.

Most of the cardinals will have suites with a separate room for a desk and a telephone — an internal one only, as no communication with the outside world will be allowed throughout the conclave, which Vatican watchers expect to last several days.

The cardinals will be sworn to secrecy on pain of ex-communication throughout the conclave.

Telephones, smart phones and other electronic devices will be jammed within the house as well as along the 500-meter (yard) route to the Sistine Chapel.

And both the residence and the chapel are to be thoroughly swept for bugs.

All the workers at both places — drivers, cooks, receptionists, cleaning staff, nurses, and doctors — will also be sworn to silence in a solemn ceremony.

The windows that look out onto a public street will be covered over to prevent any visual contact with the outside — as well as the long lenses of paparazzi.

The cardinals will move in on Tuesday before the first voting session that afternoon. A full day of voting includes two ballots in the morning and two in the afternoon, until two-thirds of the cardinals rally around one man.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Rene V

    well, i am quite jaded with my expectations. as a Filipino, the news about the mitsubishops have eroded my expectations about the clergy but i feel i still have my faith… in spite of the mitsubishops. i have my reservations regarding this so called poor living conditions for the members of the conclave. i pray the Lord touch each and everyone to elect the successor of Peter who will lead the Church. May the Lord Bless Us All…including the misubishops…

    • Norman

      They have better rooms than most economy inn here in the Philippines.

    • Edward

      mamatay kayo sa inggit mga kulto..d tulad sa mga kultong grupo nyo d pinapansin ng media..hindi tulad ng Catholic Church no matter how secretive it is (sabi nga ng mga media practitioners namamangha sila) kya atat na atat nndun lahat ng mga foreign media sa Vatican para I cover ang makasaysayang event na ito…hahaha

    • Edward

      alam nyo dre mamatay ka nlng sa inggit..biro nyo khit naka Bloomberg at cnbc (business channels) ako binabalita pa rin nila ito kasi malaking balita ito..inggit kau noh..hahaha

  • disqus_EWrSdjV1nv

    san na kaya ang tagle followers. sya na ba ang papa?

  • Chris P Pnono

    welcome cardinal christop Schönborn…..willkommen kardinal Christop Schönborn

  • Hfxwst

    This is getting ridiculous.   The election of the leader of a religious group should be open to the public.  There is far too much corruption in the RCC because of secrecy – this is 2013, NOT the Dark Ages, 

    • Rene V

      well, the Church has it traditions and we have to live with that. 

      • Hfxwst

        Hmmm – they had a tradition of burning people at the stake, we convinced them to change that one.

      • Rene V

        well, in that regard, i agree with you.

      • angie1875

        So true.

      • Edward

        hahaha…indeed, little is a very dangerous thing…hatred begets icu..hahaha..kulto ka nga…

    • Pablo Rinon Alcantara

      If you don’t know anything about Roman Catholicism, what made you think ‘democracy’ or the rule of majority should be followed. The Church will never be a conformist church — to conform to what the majority wants, that was NEVER the case since 2,000 years ago!

      • Hfxwst

        I know enough to recognize that secrecy breeds corruption. All religious groups change over time, the RCC now accepts married priests from the Anglican religion – so they changed to accept married Priests. The RCC is capable of change, sometimes it needs to be forced.

      • Edward

        here we go kulto…

      • Hfxwst

        115 mostly white, western, 50+, men only voting in secret behind an electronic shield looks like The Evil Empire electing an Emperor.

        I am only suggesting they vote in Public – they could lose the Fleet School uniforms too – they look silly.

      • Edward

        who are you to suggest such moronic and demonic thinking? if I were u better shut up if u r not Catholic…u don’t know anything about the Catholic Church…

      • angie1875

        Don;t use the word “never.” How can you lead when your followers are dwindling? 

      • Edward

        indeed, little learning is a very dangerous thing

        dwindling??? at 1.2 billion from 800 millions? hahaha..

        when someone is building up the other one is tearing it down…getz nyo? when Catholic population in eu is dwindling it is replaced many times by the vibrant Catholics in African continents and Asia…the problem with you u don’t have world mission magazine and statistics to support ur claim. or maybe u just rely on newspaper reports from lazy journalists..hahaha

        take the case at what happened during the reformation in Europe where Luther went against the Catholic Church…The Catholic population lost 3 million members who became Protestants. But was replaced by more than 5 million converts in Mexico because of our Lady of Guadalupe…

        go back to school and study history–not selective story as u kulto likes to do it—selecting the dark side story and not the total picture of world history…hahaha

      • Norman

        How about adapting pagan practices to win more converts during the ancient times.

      • Edward

        indeed, little learning is a very dangerous thing…

        go back to school and restudy ancient history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, humanities, sciences, biblical hermeneutics, theology that you may know…

      • CrossWinds

        Hebrews 12:2…….
        Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God……

        …..Galatians 5:24…..
        And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

      • Edward

        well said…

      • buttones

        What we are dealing with here is a absolute monarchy, theocracy, and elective monarchy, it ‘aint no democracy my dear! 115 guys get to choose and a billion don’t? OMG!

      • Tamarindwalk

         And that’s why it’s losing out today!  Because people now think for themselves and don’t want to be subjected to the dictates of anyone.

    • CrossWinds

      John 10:27-28…..

      27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

    • Tamarindwalk

       Sad to say, but the Catholic church is still living in the dark ages.

  • Islaslolo

    What is not said in this article but is practiced throughout the centuries up to the present time is that most of the workers except for the doctors are nuns and novitiates. Even though most of these nuns have bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, they are just maids or glorified maids.

    The selection of the Pope is indeed the privy of old conservative men even if half of the faithful are women.

    • Tamarindwalk

       Yes, it’s is the privy of a bunch of old men dressed in robes who conduct business, or whatever, behind closed, locked doors.

  • koolkid_inthehouse

    Majority of Catholic Filipinos live worst than the Spartans.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos