By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
The process of choosing a successor to Pope Benedict XVI became more complicated Monday, when he changed the rules for when the vote can be held and a Scottish cardinal resigned his post.
Benedict, whose leaves the papacy on Thursday, issued a legal document with minute changes to the dense canon law procedures that will allow the cardinals to call the conclave earlier than the original requisite 15 days after the throne of St. Peter becomes vacant.
The cardinals are in a time squeeze because they need to choose the next pope and install him in the role before Holy Week begins on March 24, Palm Sunday. That gives them until March 17 to complete the process.
Moving up the start date may be more feasible since many cardinals are already on their way to Rome this week for a farewell visit with the pontiff..
However, the number of cardinals under the age of 80 and eligible to vote is dwindling.
It was down to 115 as of Monday when Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien resigned to deal with scandalous rumors of inappropriate behavior. Last week, an Indonesian cardinal notified the Vatican that he was not well enough to travel to Rome.