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Papal conclave may happen sooner

Feb. 16, 2013 at 5:18 PM

VATICAN CITY, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The meeting of Roman Catholic Church cardinals to choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI could happen sooner than first thought, a Vatican spokesman said.

Benedict is scheduled to step down from his position Feb. 28, and the conclave, or the meeting to determine his successor, was scheduled to take begin March 15, CNN reported.

The meeting may begin sooner if all of the cardinals are already in Rome, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Holy See Press Office director.

Lombardi said because the conclave is not triggered by Benedict's death, there is some scope for the time frame of the meeting to be brought forward.

During the conclave, all of the 117 cardinals will be cut off from outside communication until a new pope has been selected, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

Under the apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, or "The Lord's Whole Flock", written by Pope John Paul II in 1996, there must be absolute discretion when electing a new pope.

More than 35,000 people have registered with the Pontifical Household to attend Pope Benedict XVI's departure from the papacy Feb. 28, Vatican Radio reported.

Lombardi said the event will be broadcast live on the Vatican Television Center.

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