Pope Benedict XVI has issued a motu proprio, a document issued on his own initiative, revising some of the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis which was promulgated by Blessed Pope John Paul II, which laid down the modern rules for the conclave of cardinal-electors. The document is dated for Friday the 22nd, but news of the document didn’t reach the larger Catholic press until Monday, when the Vatican issued a press bulletin alerting the world of the document’s existence.
In addition to confirming a change made early in his reign restoring the requirement that a majority of 2/3rds of the cardinal-electors plus one vote should be required at all times to elect a new Supreme Pontiff, also made clear that the College of Cardinals does not have wait at least a full 15 days after the Holy See becomes vacant, as has long been previously the case. Instead, the cardinal-electors can choose to hold the conclave before that time provided that all of the cardinal-electors have arrived in Rome.
In a further change, the Holy Father has decreed in one of his last official acts that the College of Cardinals could not wait more than 20 days after the sede vacante, even if all of the cardinal electors are not yet in Rome. The official date of the forthcoming conclave, then, has yet to be determined, although there seem to be some indications that as a result of the Holy Father’s decree, the conclave may occur between the 9th and the 11th of March. One open question has been resolved: After Thursday at 8:00pm, the Pope will then be known as Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff Emeritus. He’ll wear his personal episcopal ring of office, a simple white cassock, and a pair of brown shoes he was given as a gift in Mexico. Benedict believes that that he should wear simple clothes that befit the life God has called him to at the monastery where he will live out his days.