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 15 -- 15 days after Pope Benedict XVI 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 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 600 years.
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.
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, 85, 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"