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
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.
Meanwhile, two cardinals from Kerala are among the four from the country to
leave for Vatican to cast their vote in elections for a new pope
to replace Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the Catholic church,
who has announced that he would step down in view of advanced age.
Sixty-six-year-old Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese
of the Syro-Malabar Church, Mar George Alencherry and 53-year-old
Rev Dr Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, head of the capital
city-headquartered Syro-Malankara Catholic Church are the two from
Kerala who will join two other cardinals from India to elect the
Incidentally, both the men from Kerala were only elevated to the
post of cardinal last year, on different occasions.
Speaking to IANS, the spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church, Fr
Paul Thelekkat said the electoral college consists of 120
cardinals. Only cardinals below the age of 80 are eligible to cast
a vote in elections for a Pope.
"Even though there are 211 cardinals, there have to be 120
cardinals who are under the age of 80. These 120 not only cast
their votes to elect a new pope, but each one of them can also
contest for the post," Thelekkat said.
The 120 cardinals huddle together in prayer ahead of the
elections. Once the election process starts, they come out only
after the new pope is elected from among them. This could take
about five days.