New Pope may be elected before Mar 15

February 17, 2013 - 3:48:51 am

ROME: The Vatican yesterday said it could speed up the election of a new Pope as lobbying for Benedict XVI’s job intensified amid speculation over who had the best chance to 

succeed him.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, who earlier said the conclave would probably start on or after March 15 after the Pope resigns on February 28, said the issue of bringing forward the date “has been raised by various cardinals”.

Benedict’s decision to step down for age reasons has revealed tensions at the heart of the Church, emphasised by a battle between top cardinals over whose candidate should be appointed to head the Vatican’s scandal-hit bank.

The choice of German financier Ernst Von Freyberg on Friday was seen by some as a snub to the Vatican’s powerful number two, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had backed another candidate, religious watchers said.

“The appointment is fruit of a bitter compromise,” Il Messaggero daily said.

It appeared to bring to the fore a power struggle between Bertone’s allies and his rivals reminiscent of Renaissance conspiracies — a bid to shape the hierarchy within the Vatican first revealed in a leaks scandal 

last year.

In an interview carried out 10 weeks ago but published yesterday, Benedict spoke about the scandal, which some believe was a factor in his resignation.

“I simply couldn’t understand it,” he told his biographer Peter Seewald in the interview published in Focus magazine, referring to his former butler Paolo Gabriele’s decision to leak secret memos revealing intrigue at 

the Vatican.

“I don’t know what he was expecting. I can’t understand his thought process,” said the 85-year-old, who pardoned Gabriele just before Christmas.

Sources at the Vatican told Ansa news agency that Gabriele will in the next few days sign a confidentiality agreement with the Vatican, assuring the Church that he will not speak out to the media about his life as Benedict’s butler.

Seewald had also asked Benedict six months ago what people could expect from the rest of his papacy: “From me? Not much. I am an old man, running out of energy. I also think what I have done is enough,” he replied.

In one of his last private audiences, Benedict met Guatemala President Otto Perez, who described to AFP “a humble Pope” who told him he was “conscious of the responsibility of his decision” which he had taken “to serve the whole world and humanity.”

“He told me he understood the obligations of being a Pope and said it was very difficult to take this decision. He asked for the wisdom of God, but in the end decided to give way to someone else,” he said.