The College of Cardinals (search) decided Saturday to halt interviews with the media as they begin preparations for their conclave to elect a new pope, the Vatican said.

Until now, cardinals have been giving interviews and the clampdown is believed unprecedented.

The cardinals consider it an "act of responsibility" as they begin a period of "intense preparation" for the conclave that begins April 18, said Vatican (search) spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

The spokesman presented it as a "request" by the cardinals to the media that they not ask for interviews and said it was approved unanimously by the 130 cardinals present.

Italian news media have reported that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (search), the dean of the College of Cardinals who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II, had argued for the ban. Navarro-Valls said only that all the cardinals approved it.

The spokesman said the decision against accepting interviews should not be considered an act of "discourtesy" or lack of interest in the media.

On other issues, Navarro-Valls underlined that any eventual decision to put John Paul on the path to sainthood would rest with the next pope. Since John Paul's death a week ago, there have been calls that he be made a saint.

He said also said the number of cardinals who will enter the conclave will be 115 because of the confirmed absences of two prelates due to illness: Cardinal Jaime L. Sin of the Philippines and Cardinal Alfonso Antonio Suarez Rivera of Mexico.