Pope Benedict XVI has changed Roman Catholic Church law in order to give the conclave selecting his successor an earlier start.
The change made to the law means cardinals no longer have to wait 15 days after the Pope has left his position before beginning the conclave, reported BBC News. It can now start before March 15.
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"I leave the College of Cardinals the possibility to bring forward the start of the conclave once all cardinals are present, or push the beginning of the election back by a few days should there be serious reasons," the Pope said in a statement read by his spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.
Benedict, 85, will leave the papacy on Thursday, according to USA Today. Cardinals don't have much time to choose a replacement, as the next Pope needs to be installed before Holy Week, which begins on March 24, Palm Sunday.
According to NBC News, the number of cardinals eligible to take part in the upcoming conclave — a private ballot that allows cardinals to choose the next Pope — has dropped from 117 to 116 after Britain's Cardinal Kaith O'Brien resigned because of allegations from priests of "inappropriate behavior," which is said to have occurred over 30 years.