I noted, in a post early this morning, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi’s statement that the cardinals would wait the fully prescribed 15 to 20 days after the Pope’s resignation to begin the voting. But word comes today from Father Lombardi that there has been some pushback: Why wait so long, when we already knew about the resignation 17 days before it takes effect?
It’s a reasonable question, but Edward Peters — one of the most highly respected U.S. experts on ecclesiastical law — says the cardinals don’t have the authority to make the change that would be necessary. The Pope himself would have to decree a change in the law, for the date of the conclave to be moved up.
I think this would be a good idea in itself – better to have a Pope already in place and inaugurated well before the elaborate Palm Sunday and Holy Week liturgies — but Pope Benedict may not want to interfere at this point: It would set a precedent for future lame-duck Popes to be pressured into last-minute rules changes, changes that would not be as defensible as this one is. But we are in uncharted territory, and he may well decide it’s worth it.
BREAKING: Vatican expert Robert Moynihan, in an e-mail, reports that he’s hearing from Vatican officials that the start of the conclave will be moved up to March 10 — “Laetare” (“Rejoice!”) Sunday.