Pope Benedict may alter conclave electoral rules


Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithfuls gathered at St. Peter square at the Vatican.



Pope Benedict may alter the Catholic Church's rules for electing his successor, the Vatican said on Wednesday

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said Benedict may change rules governing the papal conclave in an attempt to "harmonize" two documents established by his predecessor, John Paul II, Reuters reported.

It's unlikely the conclave, a closed-door gathering of cardinals who vote to elect the next pontiff, will undergo dramatic changes. But for many, any alteration of time-honored Catholic tradition is significant.

It's unclear exactly what changes Benedict is considering. Still, the BBC identified two documents he may alter:

"One document governs the period during which the papacy is vacant [the Sede Vacante], the other gives details of the running of the conclave." 

Under current Vatican law - the apostolic constitution called Universi Dominici Gregis - a conclave must begin between 15 and 20 days after the death or resignation of a pope, according to the Catholic News Press

However, it could begin earlier if the rule was changed, and the Catholic Church would like to appoint a new pope before the start of the Holy Week on Match 24, the BBC reported.

Pope Benedict will abdicate on Feb. 28.

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