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  • John Thavis

Early start to conclave may get papal clarification

Pope Benedict is studying the possibility of issuing a document that would clarify certain issues being raised about the coming conclave, including the possibility of an early start to the papal election.

The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said today that if the document is issued, it would come before the papal resignation takes effect Feb. 28. Lombardi said he thought the document might address certain ritual questions. He said he didn’t know if the pope would say anything about the starting date of the conclave, but the spokesman left the impression that the pope was aware of the timing issue.

The Vatican rules say that in preparing for a conclave, the cardinals “must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent.” Experts initially said that meant March 15 was the earliest possible starting date, given that the sede vacante begins Feb. 28. But others say the wording leaves open the possibility that the conclave could begin sooner, as long as all the cardinals were present or accounted for.

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