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Election of new Pope could come sooner than expected if enough cardinals make it to Rome to form a voting conclave in timeVatican spokesman says cardinals may agree to radical proposal to bring forward the succession vote
He says rules are open to 'interpretation' and there have been church talks35,000 have asked for tickets to Benedict's final audience in St Peter's Square
Daily Mail Reporter
15:00 GMT, 16 February 2013
18:50 GMT, 16 February 2013
The election of a new Pope could start sooner than the earliest possible date of March 15, it emerged today.
Under Vatican rules, there is always a 15-20 day waiting period before Cardinals vote in a conclave after the papacy becomes vacant.
But the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI that he will retire on February 28, means they will have plenty of time to get to Rome to take part in the election .
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Pope Benedict XVI: An election to find his successor could be held earlier than the usual 15-20 days after a papal vacancy
Vatican spokesman The Rev. Federico Lombardi claimed that rules on papal succession were open to interpretation and that 'this is a question that people are discussing.'
He said: 'It is possible that church authorities can prepare a proposal to be taken up by the cardinals on the first day after the papal vacancy' to move up the start of conclave.
Rules: Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi says the cardinals may accept a proposal bringing forward the election
The date of the conclave's start is important because Holy Week begins March 24, with Palm Sunday Mass followed by Easter Sunday on March 31.
In order to have a new pope in place in time for the most solemn liturgical period on the church calendar, he would need to be installed as pope by Sunday, March 17.
Given the tight time-frame, speculation has mounted that some sort of arrangement would be made to start the conclave earlier than a strict reading of the law would allow.
Questions about the start of the conclave have swirled ever since Benedict announced on Febraury 11 that he would retire, the first pontiff in 600 years to abdicate rather than stay in office until death.
As a result, his decision has created a host of questions about how the Vatican will proceed, given that its procedures for the so-called 'sede vacante' – or vacant seat – period between papacies won't begin with a pope's death.
Lombardi also gave more details about Benedict's final audiences and plans for retirement, saying already 35,000 people have requested tickets for his final general audience to be held in St. Peter's Square on February 27.
He said Benedict would spend about two months in the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome immediately after his abdication, to allow enough time for renovations to be completed on his retirement home – a converted monastery inside the Vatican walls.
That means Benedict would be expected to return to the Vatican, no longer as pope, around the end of April or beginning of May, Lombardi said.
He was asked if and when the pope would meet with his successor and whether he would participate in his installation Mass.
Both issues simply haven't yet been resolved, Lombardi said.
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