News / Europe

Pope May Call for Early Conclave

People walk in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, February 19, 2013.
People walk in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, February 19, 2013.
VOA News
Pope Benedict may issue a decree calling for an early start to the conclave of cardinals that will elect his successor.

A Vatican spokesman says the pope is considering the possibility of making changes to the law before he steps down on February 28.

Under rules set by Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, the conclave must begin between 15 and 20 days after the papacy becomes vacant, meaning a start of March 15 at the earliest.

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.

The current rules allow for cardinals to have time to travel to Rome following the death of a pope, but a Vatican spokesman said since the cardinals know the exact date of Benedict's resignation, they can plan on arriving in Rome early.

Some 117 Catholic cardinals will enter the conclave, which is held in the Sistine Chapel.

  • Pope Benedict greets the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, April 19, 2005.
  • Pope Benedict blesses a baby as he rides around St. Peter's Square to hold his last general audience at the Vatican Feb. 27, 2013.
  • Pope Benedict appears on a giant screen in a packed St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during his last general audience, February 27, 2013.
  • Pope Benedict arrives to attend a meeting with seminarians at the Romano Maggiore seminary in Rome, February 8, 2013.
  • Pope Benedict waves as he arrives to lead the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 18, 2012.
  • Pope Benedict wears a sombrero, a traditional Mexican hat, while being driven through the crowd before officiating a mass in Silao, Mexico, March 25, 2012.
  • Pope Benedict holds his cross as he leads a solemn mass in Zagreb, Croatia, June 5, 2011.
  • Pope Benedict visits the Ardeatine Caves Memorial in Rome, Italy, March 27, 2011.
  • Pope Benedict leaves after an audience with Vatican-accredited diplomats at the Vatican, January 10, 2011.
  • Pope Benedict visits the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 12, 2009.
  • Pope Benedict waves to the crowd gathered in Saint Peter's square during his weekly Angelus blessing at the Vatican, May 16, 2010.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama meet with Pope Benedict at the Vatican, July 10, 2009.

Benedict announced earlier this month that he was resigning for health reasons.

The 85-year-old Benedict was elected pope in 2005 to replace the late John Paul II.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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