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Vatican considers early vote for next pope

BBC-The Vatican is studying calls from cardinals to hold a papal conclave earlier than planned, after Pope Benedict XVI steps down on 28 February.

Under current rules, the election can be held on 15 March at the earliest, to allow cardinals enough time to travel to Rome.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said officials were examining if a rule change was possible.

Benedict XVI, 85, announced his shock resignation last Monday.

The outgoing head of the Catholic Church cited his advanced age as the reason for stepping down.

Pope Benedict’s successor will be chosen by 117 cardinal-electors during a secret election in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

The vote needs to be held before Easter Sunday, which is on 31 March, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar.

According to the Holy See’s constitution, a 15-20 day waiting period must be observed after the papacy becomes vacant.

The rule is in place to allow “all those [cardinals] who are absent” sufficient time to make the journey to Rome, Mr Lombardi said.

But the prospect of bringing forward the date had been raised by a number of cardinals, he added.

And given that they already knew when Pope Benedict was stepping down, they would have plenty of time to plan their trip.

“It is possible that church authorities can prepare a proposal to be taken up by the cardinals on the first day after the papal vacancy,” Mr Lombardi said.

The rules on papal succession were open to interpretation and “this is a question that people are discussing”, he said.

Pope Benedict is expected to spend his retirement in a monastery at the Vatican.

Source: BBC

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