Rome: The conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI could start before March 15 if all the cardinals were already in Rome, the Vatican has announced.
The conclave of 117 cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church is expected to start between March 15 and 18, about two weeks after Pope Benedict's resignation Feb 28. Under the church rules, the conclave is to begin between 15-20 days after the papacy becomes vacant, to give cardinals time for the arrival in Rome.
The cardinals already know the pope's resignation date and can convene in Rome before March 15, said Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi.
Pope Benedict, who became the 265th Pope in 2005 following his predecessor John Paul II's death, announced his resignation due to old age and failing health Feb 11. The last pope to step down before his death was Gregory XII in 1415.