Vatican goes high-tech to ensure conclave secrecy

VATICAN CITY — The secrecy and security measures that surround a papal election are designed to “make the conclave safe … Continued

VATICAN CITY — The secrecy and security measures that surround a papal election are designed to “make the conclave safe for the Holy Spirit,” as the saying goes.

But the high-tech defenses the Vatican is deploying for next week’s conclave are so impressive that it will be a miracle if even the Holy Spirit can slip in to the Sistine Chapel.

On Friday (March 8), the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed that special jamming devices will be surround the Sistine Chapel and the Santa Marta guest residence where cardinals will be sequestered during the conclave.

This will not only prevent electronic eavesdropping on the secret proceedings, but will also stop cardinals from communicating via telephones or computers with the outside world.

Church law regulating the conclave forbids cardinals from communicating, “whether by writing, by telephone or by any other means” during a papal election. The conclave is scheduled to open on Tuesday, and is expected to last for several days.

During the 2005 Conclave, a German cardinal informed a German television channel of the election of Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI well ahead of the official announcement from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, according to the Italian daily La Repubblica.

All of the staff that will assist the cardinals during the conclave — from priests standing by ready to hear confessions to the sisters serving meals in the Santa Marta — will take an oath of secrecy, Lombardi said.

Should they breach it, they will incur automatic excommunication, the harshest penalty for Catholics.

Cars equipped with special jamming devices will also follow the vans that ferry cardinals from their residence to the Sistine Chapel, according to La Repubblica.

Benedict’s pontificate was plagued by Vatican infighting and resultant leaks, culminating with the so-called Vatileaks affair that saw the pope’s personal butler convicted of stealing confidential documents and leaking them to the press.

After Benedict’s surprise Feb. 11 announcement of his resignation, the Italian weekly Panorama claimed the Vatican had embarked on a large-scale surveillance and wiretapping operation as part of the Vatican police investigation into the leaks.

The Vatican denied that a large amount of data on the personal habits of cardinals and other officials had been amassed but admitted to wiretapping some of its internal phone lines during the investigation.

The urgency of security risks was highlighted by repeated breaches of the confidentiality of the cardinals’ daily General Congregation meetings that have preceded next week’s conclave. In recent days, Italian newspapers have published detailed accounts of the cardinals’ addresses and discussions during the daily meetings.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokesperson for the U.S. bishops, said the secrecy of the upcoming conclave may challenge some bishops.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

More on:
  • AgentFoxMulder

    A better headline would have read, “Vatican goes high-tech to ensure conclave PRIVACY”

Read More Articles

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.