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Vatican: Cardinals Could Meet Early to Elect New Pope

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The Vatican said Saturday 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 15th -- 5 days after Pope Benedict formally steps down.

But a Vatican spokesman says 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 24th 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 600 years.

In an article in the German magazine Focus Saturday, journalist Peter Seewald said Benedict hinted last year that his tenure as pope may be running out.

Seewald, who interviewed Benedict in August, quoted him as saying "I am an old man and my strength is running out." Seewald says Benedict also said "I think what I have done is enough."

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



Benedict also commented in Focus on the scandal surrounding his butler who was jailed for stealing confidential Vatican documents. He called the crime "incomprehensible"

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