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Huge Crowd Gathers at Vatican to Hear Pope

A huge crowd filled St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to hear Pope Benedict give his weekly Sunday prayer.

The unusually large crowd gathered six days after the pope announced he would step down on February 28.

On Saturday, the Vatican said it is considering holding the conclave to elect a new pope earlier than scheduled.

Current rules call for the cardinals who elect the pope to meet on March 15, which is 15 days after Pope Benedict formally steps down.

But a Vatican spokesman said since the cardinals know the exact date of Benedict's resignation, they can plan on arriving in Rome early. Church authorities say they need a new pope in place for Holy Week, which starts March 24 for Palm Sunday and culminates on the 31st with Easter.

Benedict announced last week he was resigning for health reasons. He is the first pope to step aside in hundreds of years.



Benedict is 85 years old. He was elected pope in 2005 to replace the late John Paul the Second.

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