Pope Benedict XVI bucks conclave timeline, changes Catholic law - KMSP-TV

Pope Benedict XVI bucks conclave timeline, changes Catholic law

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

First, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world with his unexpected and sudden resignation -- and he did it once more on Monday with an unprecedented move to change Catholic law and speed up the process to choose his successor.

"We no longer have to wait 15 days to elect a new pope after Benedict steps down," explained Dr. Charles Reid Jr., a legal scholar at the St. Thomas School of Law.

While there is no official date, the cardinals could choose the next pope as soon as next week. In the meantime, Vatican watchers are trying to anticipate the church's next move.

According to Reid, the pope's decision was for the sake of unity and to ensure the church would have a leader in place for Holy Week.

"The church absolutely wants someone in place by Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday," he said.

While Reid acknowledges that no pope has ever moved a conclave forward before, he said he believes it will soon become just another part of the church's history and won't have any major consequences.

Yet, the sudden resignation of Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien is complicating matters. He has a vote in the election process but is removing himself after rumors of inappropriate behavior with other priests emerged.

"I would say that in these kind of issues, being disenchanted is a good thing," said Dr. Massimo Faggioli.

Even so, Faggioli says these rapid changes could be good for the church despite its uncertain future.

"It's the end of one special kind of papal mystique, an aura of a sacred view of what the pope is," he said.

Benedict will vacate his office on Thursday. As for the cardinals, once they decide to vote, a two-thirds majority will be needed to name a successor.

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