Pope will change rule for conclave date tomorrow

Pope Benedict XVI rests at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in July 2010 Credit LOsservatore Romano   Vatican Pool via Getty Images CNA 500x320 Pope Benedict XVI rests at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in July 2010. | L'Osservatore Romano - Vatican Pool via Getty Images.

Pope Benedict XVI will issue a motu proprio on Feb. 25, clearing the way for the College of Cardinals to choose a date in early March to begin the conclave for electing his successor.

According to sources at the Vatican, Pope Benedict plans to publish a declaration on Monday that will enable the cardinals to select a date that is earlier than the 15-day waiting period currently required by Church law.

The director of the Holy See press office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed last week that the Pope was studying the possibility of issuing a motu proprio – a papal document that changes Church law – to address some issues that have been raised by the pontiff resigning instead of dying.

The primary item that will be addressed is the timing of the conclave. John Paul II's "Universi Dominici Gregis" established that it should not be sooner than 15 days after the death of the Pope, but the case of an abdication with advanced notice was not foreseen. There are also housekeeping items such as securing the Pope's belongings and other points of procedure.

Most of the cardinals who do not live in Rome will begin arriving in the Eternal City on Monday, three days before Pope Benedict will officially resign on Feb. 28.

The Casa Santa Marta, where the cardinals will stay during the conclave, will open its doors on March 1 to the members of the Sacred College.

Before the conclave begins, the cardinals will hold a series of General Congregations, at which they will take up any administrative items, discuss the needs of the Church and talk about who can best respond to those needs as the next Pope.

During the conclave, the 116 cardinals who are under 80 years-old and are able to make the trip will gather behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel and determine who the Church's next Pope will be.

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