Pope Benedict XVI may enact a new law that could change the date of the upcoming conclave. Frederico Lombardi said Wednesday that the pope is looking to adjust the “rites of conclave” before his Feb. 28 resignation. Lombardi also said he was not sure the pope would make any changes to the dates, but that given the public interest it seems only natural he might clarify the issue.
Vatican law states conclave is to be set 15-20 days after the pope leaves office, making the start date March 15. This period is usually meant for mourning the passing of the pope and to allow cardinals enough time to arrive at the Vatican. Speculation has mounted that some arrangement will be made for the start date to be on March 10, given that the cardinals will already be in Rome for the farewell audience Pope Benedict will hold on Feb. 28.
Among the 117 cardinals eligible to vote, is supposed to be Cardinal Mahony. Popular pressure is mounting from parishioners who want to prevent a church representative with such a tainted record from choosing their next pope. Amidst the outcry, Mahony has reiterated he will attend conclave next month. Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, one of the Vatican's top canon lawyers, told The Associated Press that barring any canonical impediments, Mahony has a right and duty to vote in the conclave.
Nearly two dozen cardinals are said to be in the running for the next pontiff. With Holy Week approaching, the next pope will need to be in office by March 17 in order to celebrate the Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday masses. Pope Benedict XVI will have until Feb. 28 at 7:59 p.m. to make any changes to conclave law.