Skooter reports 02/17/13
By mid-March, the conclave in the Roman Catholic Church would choose a new leader to succeedthe XVI, the Vatican said on Saturday.
Less than two weeks away from a historic papal resignation, the Vatican once more underscored that the pope was not giving up the Church in times of hardships or difficulties and call on the faithful to trust in God and in the next pope.
The Vatican was still in a state of spiritual and bureaucratic shock, after Benedict announced his resignation in Latin to a small group of cardinals, fumbling for ways to deal with a situation without precedent for at least six centuries.
About 117 cardinals under the age of 80 will be qualified to enter the mysterious conclave to choose Benedict's successor. According to Church rules the conclave has to start between 15-20 days after the papacy becomes vacant, which will be on February 28.
Since the Church is recently coping with an announced resignation and not a sudden death, Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman said the Vatican would be interpreting the law to see if it could start earlier.
Globally the Cardinals have already begun informal consultations by phone and email to build a profile of the man they think would be best fit to lead the Church in a period of continuing crisis.
The Vatican apparently aiming to have a new pope elected and then formally inducted in a solemn ceremony before Palm Sunday on March 24 so he can officiate at Holy Week services leading to Easter.
Meantime, Pope Benedict XVI was having a normal Saturday as possible, taking into account that his remaining calendared public appearances can now be counted on one hand.
On Sunday, the pope will hold his traditional noon blessing from his window overlooking St Peter's Square before going into an earlier planned, week-long Lenten spiritual retreat. He will emerge from that on Feb 23.
On February 24, the Pope will then say one more Sunday noon prayer, hold a final general audience on February 27. The next day he will be air transported by chopper to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, flying into the history books.
For two months the Pope would stay there for couple weeks or so required to restore the convent inside the Vatican where he will live out his remaining years, Vatican officials said..