As usual, Deacon Greg Kandra has the story.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in one of his last acts as Supreme Pontiff, has modified the rules to allow for an earlier conclave. Since most of the cardinals will be in Rome this week for his last day as Pope, many people hope that the conclave will begin then.
This change does not require an earlier conclave. It simply opens the way if the cardinals decide they want to have one. The decision itself is in the hands of the College of Cardinals.
Whatever they decide, the next few days will be historic for the Church. Our pope has resigned and we will say good-bye to our years under his care. He will retire to what he has described as a life of prayer for the Church.
And we will await a new pope.
I intend to pray this week. I am going to pray a lot. I will pray for good Pope Benedict as he, in his own words, “climbs the mountain” to what his future will bring. I will pray that the Holy Spirit moves the College of Cardinals to give us a strong, faithful and holy pope who can lead the Church through the challenges ahead of us.
I ask you to join me in these prayers in hope for our future and in gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for his faithful service to Our Lord, and to us.
The CNS story describing the pope’s rule change says in part:
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In his last week as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI issued new rules for conclaves, including a clause that allows the College of Cardinals to move up the date for the beginning of the conclave to elect his successor.However, the cardinals cannot set the date until after the pope leaves office Feb. 28.
Pope Benedict also defined the exact penalty — automatic excommunication — that would be incurred by any noncardinal assisting the College of Cardinals who failed to maintain absolute secrecy about the conclave proceedings.
The pope laid out the new rules in an apostolic letter issued “motu proprio” (on his own initiative) Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter. The Vatican released the document Feb. 25.
The changes affect the rules established in Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic constitution governing the election of popes, “Universi Dominici Gregis.”
Under the current rules, which remain in effect, upon the vacancy of the papacy, cardinals in Rome “must wait 15 full days for those who are absent” before they can enter into a conclave and begin the process of electing a new pope.
However, Pope Benedict inserted an additional provision that grants the College of Cardinals “the faculty to move up the start of the conclave if all the cardinal-electors are present,” as well as giving them the ability “to delay, if there are serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few more days.” (Read the rest here.)