Is “Sped Up” Conclave a Good Idea?

From yesterday’s New York Times (excerpted):

Church law states that cardinals should wait 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant before starting a conclave so that the cardinals eligible to vote have enough time to travel to Rome. That timing also took into account a papal funeral.

But because Benedict announced on Feb. 11 that he would step down on Feb. 28, many cardinals have already begun traveling to Rome, where they will attend Benedict’s last public audience as pope next Wednesday and his final farewell to cardinals on Feb. 28.

The Vatican has said Benedict will not participate in the conclave to elect his successor. He has said he plans to spend some time at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence, before eventually moving into a convent in Vatican City.

Ambrogio Piazzoni, the vice prefect of the Vatican library and an expert in the history of conclaves, said on Wednesday that the law stated simply that “cardinals present in Rome must wait 15 days for the arrival of the others.”

“That can mean that if the cardinals all arrive before the 15 days there is no need to wait,” he added. “The phrase ‘must wait’ doesn’t say that you can’t start sooner than 15 days.”

Many cardinals have been hoping to return to their home dioceses in time for Holy Week, which begins this year on March 24, Palm Sunday, followed by Easter Sunday on March 31.

While I’m as anxious as everyone else to see this process unfold and to “meet” our new Holy Father, I wonder if moving things up is a good idea. I know we’re in unchartered territory here. What’s your take?

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About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at

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  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    My take: the longer this goes, the more opportunity for spin. John Allen, I believe, mentioned that because of the unusual circumstances of this conclave—the pope isn’t dead, so there’s no respectful desire to shed a tear and canonize him—many cardinals (and more than a few observers in the peanut gallery of the press) are not being shy about speaking their minds about what’s wrong with the Church, the current pope, the Curia, you name it. Sooner is better. Get it over with.

  • Lisa Schmidt

    An interesting point made on Cardinal Dolan’s weekly radio show on Sirius/XM this week … a listener called in and asked +Dolan if the Cardinals really know one another all that well? If not, maybe they need more time with one another to properly discern who they write on that piece of paper?

    I have absolutely no idea. But Cardinal Dolan seemed to agree with the caller that a little more time is probably prudent.

  • TheEpic95

    i think they should ask his holiness. One of the factors about him announcing his retirement as opposed to (God forbid) an ujexpected death is they can plan ahead. Perhaps he retired in part because his death would mean the seat would be empty longer. it is clear, however, that while the main purops eof this cannon law is to allow a funeral and morning and, or course, for all of them to arrive, it may also be in order for th ecardnals to collect their thoughts. isnt it important that they think about viable canadates? that they have time in prayer sohat they will be ready to choose according to Gods will? yes, they have this time NOW, since they know before hand. but is 15 ever *enough* days for prayer? even for the smallest of things? i dont think so. i think that the 15 day limit is so that they will act at the end of it as well as pray during it. maybe 15 extra days will be a blessing.

  • Oregon Catholic

    I think the pope should leave the rules alone (

    Those who resign should have no say in changing the rules of how their successor is chosen. He chose to resign and the timing of it. Now, he needs to let it play out, the bad and the good of it, and have faith in the Holy Spirit.

  • midwestlady

    The quicker they do this, the shorter a time we are without a pope. They know each other well enough. They should pray, pray hard and then vote and get this done.

  • Christian

    Feb 11 to Feb 28 is already more than 15 days of advance planning time.

  • Angela Sealana

    I think there is wisdom in waiting. The cardinals have had advance notice, sure, but many have also been doing a million press interviews and caring for their local Church. Giving them those extra days to gather themselves spiritually, emotionally and physically is wise in our hyper-connected world.

  • cathy yosha

    Isn’t the Holy Spirit in charge of all this? I am getting so confused