17 Feb 2013

New papal election may be held early

12:43 pm on 17 February 2013

The Vatican may speed up the election of a new pope.

Pope Benedict XVI, 85, announced his resignation as pontiff last Monday, citing his advancing age as the reason for stepping down.

The Pope will resign on 28 February. The ABC reports Catholic church officials now appear to want a successor in place before the start of the Holy Week on 24 March.

The Vatican is considering calls from cardinals to hold the conclave earlier than planned.

Existing rules require a waiting period of at least 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant.

About 117 cardinals under the age of 80 will be eligible to enter the conclave to elect Pope Benedict's successor. A two-thirds majority is needed to elect a new pope.