Search For New Pope May Begin Sooner

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VATICAN CITY, (UPI) — Retiring Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree Monday that allows the selection of his replacement to begin sooner, Vatican officials said.

The change allows a gathering of the cardinals who will elect the new leader of the Catholic Church to begin sooner than 15 days after he steps down Thursday, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

“The cardinals will be permitted to bring forward the start of the conclave, if they are all present,” the decree said.

Before the decree was issued, the conclave could not have begun before mid-March.

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