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Pope may change rules to speed up next pope selection

Cardinals around the world have already begun informal consultations by phone and e-mail to construct a profile of the man they think would be best suited to lead the church.

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Pictures of Pope Benedict XVI are seen at a newsstand outside the pope's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, in the town of Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, Wednesday. Immediately after his resignation at the end of this month, Pope Benedict XVI will spend some time at the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, overlooking Lake Albano in the hills south of Rome where he has spent his summer vacations reading and writing.

Gregorio Borgia/AP

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Pope Benedict may change church rules governing the conclave where cardinals from around the world will meet next month to secretly elect his successor, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

Benedict was studying the possibility of making changes to two laws established by his predecessor Pope John Paul before he abdicates on Feb. 28, a spokesman said.

The changes may affect the timing of the start of the conclave. (See the Monitor's article: What is a conclave? 7 things to know.)

Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Benedict was considering making changes that would "harmonize" two documents approved by his predecessor.

(Read the Monitor's related coverage of the Pope: How will the Catholic Church handle a living ex-pope?)

One governs the period while the papacy is vacant, known as the "Sede Vacante," and another is more specific about the running of the conclave after it begins.

A 1996 apostolic constitution by Pope John Paul, called "Universi Dominici Gregis," stipulates that a conclave must start between 15 and 20 days after the papacy becomes vacant, meaning it cannot begin before March 15 under the current rules.

Some cardinals believe a conclave should start sooner in order to reduce the time in which the Roman Catholic church will be without a leader.

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Cardinals around the world have already begun informal consultations by phone and email to construct a profile of the man they think would be best suited to lead the church in a period of continuing crisis.

Some 117 cardinals under the age of 80 will be eligible to enter the conclave, which is held in the Sistine Chapel.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella and Naomi O'Leary)


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