The cardinals participating in pre-conclave meetings this week at the Vatican agreed to stop giving interviews to the media after some of them complained that confidential information was being reported in Italian newspapers.
The US cardinals were holding daily press conferences, but abruptly brought them to a halt yesterday.
Fr Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See press office, said at yesterday's daily press briefing in the Vatican that the cancellation of the US cardinals' press briefings was a reflection of the "tradition of silence" around the major decision in prospect.
Sr Mary Ann Walsh, the US bishops' spokeswoman, said attendance at the American cardinals' press briefings had been growing. On Tuesday Cardinals Sean O'Malley of Boston and Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston took questions from more than 100 journalists in English and Spanish.
Yesterday's press conference had been due to take place with Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Francis George of Chicago at the North American College in Rome.
The cardinals have still not determined the exact day the conclave will begin. The final cardinal-elector, Vietnamese Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Mân, is expected to arrive in Rome this afternoon.
Fr Lombardi also asked journalists not to interpret the cardinals' delay in establishing a start date for the conclave as a sign that they wanted to spend longer in the preliminary discussions and less time in the conclave. He said instead the pre-conclave period should simply be seen as a time for discernment and reflection.
He also said that a profile of the cardinals' hopes and expectations for next pope was beginning to emerge, but did not elaborate further.
The cardinals yesterday gathered for a public Holy Hour and Eucharistic Adoration in St Peter's Basilica to pray for guidance in their deliberations.
Meanwhile a group representing victims of clergy sex abuse in northwest Italy has called for Cardinal Domenico Calcagno to be excluded from the upcoming conclave because he "did not report" an abusive priest to civil authorities.
The cardinal led the Diocese of Savona-Noli from 2002 until 2007. Last year a priest of that diocese, Fr Nello Giraudo, was sentenced to a year in prison for an abuse case dating to 2005. Italian papers this week quoted documents showing then-Bishop Calcagno knew of that case and several others and reported the priest to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. No action was taken against the cleric.
Above: Cardinals George, Onaiyekan and Toppo arrive for yesterday's prayer service in St Peter's. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring