New information should be out soon about the timing of the conclave to choose the next pope.
“By the end of the week I expect we will know more or less when things are going to get underway,” said Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke to Chris Jansing Tuesday, a day after Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking announcement that he would abdicate February 28.
The College of Cardinals is expected to meet some time in March to elect the next pope. Burke says the process will be similar to when a pope dies except there won’t be a mourning period.
With Benedict set to step down in two weeks, the Vatican is preparing for crowds to attend the final ceremonial events of his papacy. Lent begins Wednesday and Benedict will hold special Ash Wednesday services at St. Peter’s Basilica instead of the small church where he has normally held services.
The Vatican admitted Tuesday that the Pope has had a pacemaker for years and had a minor operation a few months ago to replace the battery. Burke dismisses suggestions that the Pope’s decision to abdicate had anything to do with his pacemaker.
“You don’t resign because you have a pacemaker and because you have the battery in your pacemaker replaced,” said Burke on Jansing & Co. “I’ve watched him steadily over the last seven to eight years and it’s been a steady decline. He’s not in terrible shape. I watched him three days ago speak off the cuff for a half hour to a group of seminarians and he was great. His mind is obviously there—very much engaged—very very sharp.”
Given the Pope’s low key style, Burke said it was unlikely there would be any kind of celebratory send-off for the Pontiff, saying “he’s not that kind of person.”