Pope May Change Conclave Rules Before Leaving - Vatican
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Published on Feb 20, 2013
Pope Benedict may change Church rules governing the conclave, the event where cardinals from around the world will meet next month to secretly elect his successor, the Vatican said on Wednesday (February 20).
Benedict was studying the possibility of making changes to two laws established by his predecessor Pope John Paul before he abdicates on February 28, a spokesman said.
The changes may affect the timing of the start of the conclave.
"The pope is the only one who can rule on this topic. So, until 19:59 on February 28, any new ruling from Benedict XVI will be valid. If he says that there will be no conclave here but the new pope will be elected from home, I mean, anything, he can do it. If no new rule arrives by 20:00 on February 28, the pope is no longer the pope and cannot decide whether the conclave will take place earlier or later and at that stage the Collage of Cardinals will follow the procedures that are in place," deputy prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library Ambrogio Piazzoni told reporters at a news conference in the Vatican.
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 Pope John Paul, 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.
But the changes could mean that Rome-based cardinals hold an advantage over others, Reuters Vatican correspondent Philip Pullella said.
"One possible change would mean that the conclave could begin earlier. Meaning that we would have a conclave, say March 10 instead of March 15th. It's a very controversial point that this is because basically some people say that a conclave that begins earlier would favour the cardinals who reside in Rome all the time, that they already know each other and that they will also have undue influence on cardinals who live outside Rome who will be coming to Rome and will seek their council," he said.
Cardinals around the world have already started 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. It is expected the Cardinals will stay at the Santa Marta in the Vatican City for the duration of the conclave event
Pope Benedict is currently retired into the Vatican's Apostolic Palace for a scheduled, week-long spiritual retreat and will not make any public appearances until next Sunday (February 24).
He will say one more Sunday noon prayer on February 24 and hold a final general audience on February 27.
The next day he will take a helicopter to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, where he will stay for around two months before moving to a convent inside the Vatican where he will live out his remaining years.
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