Pope may issue edict for early conclave

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 in a week.

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.

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.

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