There's A Chance A New Pontiff Could Be In Place Long Before Easter Week

VATICAN CITY (CBSNewYork) — Just days before Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to step down, another cloud of controversy is hovering over the Vatican.

A powerful cardinal resigned Monday.

And that’s not the only change. Catholics may have a new pope sooner than expected, CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported.

One day after Benedict XVI celebrated his last Sunday blessing, he instituted one his last acts of pope before he resigns on Thursday. He changed the rules of the conclave that will elect his successor. Now, cardinals will not have to wait 15 days after the pope resigns to begin voting.

“I’m praying that the cardinals will choose the right pope who will lead the Church to where it needs to be in a difficult time,” tourist Matthew Speer said.

“Maybe a pope that’s a little bit younger, I think that would be a great fit. I think that would add a lot to the whole thing if we can get a younger pope this time,” added tourist John Walter.

The Vatican would like a new pope in place before Easter week begins on March 24. That means the new pope must be installed a week earlier. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the New York Archdiocese, will be in attendance and will be charged with helping elect a new pope, though some reports have surfaced of late calling him a serious candidate.

However, Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland will be absent when voting starts. He resigned amid allegations of inappropriate conduct with three priests and a former cleric 30 years ago. O’Brien denies the charges, and said he didn’t want to be the focus of attention.

“The fact that his resignation has been accepted by the pope is significant — not of guilt but certainly that we want an investigation to begin,” said Monsignor Anthony Figueiredo, director of Pontifical North American College.

Some tourists at the Vatican said the new allegations are another blemish for the Church.

“It is sad, it is sad,” one tourist said.

“It is really a shame they have to experience that,” another added.

Pope Benedict also met Monday with the cardinals who conducted a secret report into the leak of Vatican documents. The pontiff decided the details will be shared only with the new pope.

Pope Benedict said during his last Sunday blessing that he was not abandoning the Church. He said he will continue to serve in what he called a way more suitable to his age and his strength.

The Vatican is still deciding what title Benedict will be called in his retirement.

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