The Vatican admitted on Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI may issue a decree to speed up the process to select his successor, to prevent the Catholic Church from being leaderless at an important time of the year. Church laws state that the conclave to pick a new pope must begin between 15 and 20 days after the seat becomes vacant. That gives the cardinals spread around the globe both the time to convene in Rome, and to appropriately mourn the Pope who has just died. But since Benedict's nearly unprecedented resignation gave the Church a warning it usually doesn't get, there's really no need to wait two more weeks to get started.
Also, starting the conclave as late March 19, would give the College of Cardinals just a handful of days to make their decision before one of the busiest weeks of the Catholic calendar gets underway. Easter falls on March 31 this year and is preceded by the Holy Week holidays, including Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Should the voting process for the new Pope drag on, it might interfere with the festivities at time when the whole Christian world has enough to occupy their time.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.