VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI may issue a decree that would bring forward the conclave tasked with electing his successor before a date in mid-March scheduled under the current rules, the Vatican said today.
Spokesman Federico Lombardi said the pope is ‘considering a decree in the coming days… to clarify a few specific aspects of the apostolic constitution on the conclave’.
Historian Ambrogio Piazzoni said ‘the pope is the only one who can legislate until the last minute’, when he steps down on February 28 at 1900 GMT.
The Apostolic Constitution promulgated by Benedict’s predecessor, the late pope John Paul II, in 1996 states that the conclave must begin between 15 and 20 days following the start of the popeless ‘Vacant Seat’ interregnum.
The delay is normally for cardinals to have time to travel to Rome following the death of a pope, but in this case many of the cardinals are already in Rome to bid farewell to the outgoing pontiff.