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The General Congregations are made up of all the members of the College of Cardinals not legitimately impeded from attendance. Within a day or two of the pope’s death, the Cardinals who live in Rome, other cardinals who may be in Rome, and those already arrived from around the world for the pope’s funeral, are called into session to begin the daily meetings at which decisions are made regarding the funeral and burial of the pope. The Dean of the College of Cardinals (Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano) presides, and all decisions are by majority vote.

The tasks of the General Congregations are spelled out in Universi Dominici Gregis (#13).

The cardinals are to:

  • swear an oath to observe the provisions of Universi Dominici Gregis;
  • schedule nine funeral Masses for the pope, ensuring that he is buried between the fourth and sixth day after death;
  • oversee the work of a commission, consisting of the Cardinal Camerlengo and the two cardinals who served the previous pontificate as Secretary of State (currently Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is also Camerlengo, and formerly Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who is also Dean of the College of Cardinals) and President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State (currently Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo), which is entrusted with making detailed preparations for the conclave;
  • designate two individuals who will present meditations to the cardinals regarding the gravity and importance of the conclave;
  • review and approve expenses;
  • read any documents left by the pope for the College of Cardinals;
  • draw lots for the assignment of rooms for the electors;
  • set the date and time for the beginning of the conclave.

Read: What Is the Roman Curia?

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