Wednesday, Aug. 23, 1978
Papal Conclave Setting Resembles a Monastery (New York Times)
ROME — Ambassadors and press reporters from many countries [today] visited the secluded area in the Vatican where the cardinals will elect a new pope in isolation and secrecy beginning Friday. The setting for the forthcoming conclave was found to resemble an austere and strictly cloistered monastery.
Doors and passageways were boarded up and windows chalked over. Two revolving hatches — one for official correspondence and another, bigger one for food — and one telephone for emergency use will remain the only links between the participants in the papal election and the outside world.
The 111 cardinals, most of them in their sixties and seventies, will live in Spartan quarters that are officially called cells — and do look like the cells of monks. The furniture of each consists, uniformly, of a bed, a night-table, a writing desk, a kneeling stool and a large crucifix.
The College of Cardinals views the conclave as a spiritual discernment retreat, rather than as an international board meeting or business conference. The cardinals’ simple accommodations reflect this.