News / Europe

Pope May Change Conclave Rules Before Abdication

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing as he arrives for a weekly general audience in St.Peter's Square at the Vatican, October 3, 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing as he arrives for a weekly general audience in St.Peter's Square at the Vatican, October 3, 2012.
Pope Benedict XVI may change Church rules governing the conclave where cardinals from around the world will meet next month to secretly elect his successor, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

Benedict was studying the possibility of making changes tolaws established by his predecessor Pope John Paul II before he abdicates on Feb. 28, a spokesman said.

The changes may affect the timing of the start of the conclave. Current Church rules call for the conclave to start around March 15 but there have been indications that it could be held earlier if the rules are changed.

Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Benedict was considering making changes that would ``harmonise'' two documents approved by his predecessor.

One governs the period while the papacy is vacant, known as the "Sede Vacante,'' and another is more specific about the running of the conclave after it begins.

A 1996 apostolic constitution by John Paul II, called "Universi Dominici Gregis,'' stipulates that a conclave must start between 15 and 20 days after the papacy becomes vacant, meaning it cannot begin before March 15 under the current rules.

Some cardinals believe a conclave should start sooner in order to reduce the time in which the Roman Catholic Church will be without a leader.

Cardinals around the world have already begun informal consultations by phone and email to construct a profile of the man they think would be best suited to lead the Church in a period of continuing crisis.

Some 117 cardinals under the age of 80 will be eligible to enter the conclave, which is held in the Sistine Chapel.  

Photo Gallery

  • 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.

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