Pope Benedict XVI has issued a "motu proprio," a personal document that has the force of church law, to speed up the timeline for choosing his successor.
The conclave rule change allows cardinals to move up the start date if they all arrive in Rome before the usual 15-day transition. Once the cardinals meet in what's called General Congregations, they will set the date for the conclave, which is now scheduled for March 15.
Vatican insiders anticipate a new date of March 9 or 10 so that a pope will be in place before Palm Sunday.
Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, spoke at a ceremony at the Holy Name Cathedral Sunday afternoon, where he called the week ahead an "intense moment."
“It’s an intense moment because it’s taken very seriously,” George said. “Hopefully the conclave will make a good pope. It worked last time and the time before that so I'm sure it will work this time too.”
Pope Benedict XVI delivered his final words earlier that day where he emphasized that he is not abandoning the church but that he will serve in a way “more suitable” to his age and strength.
George said he plans to take “an active part” in the conversation to elect a new pope and asked that his followers pray for him and the other cardinals as he heads to the Vatican Tuesday.