Now, this really changes the picture! Media speculation has also centered on whether an American might be a serious candidate to be elected pope in this conclave. As a staunch Roman Catholic I will dare say the following: THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

The Diocese of Rome will be “sede vacante” or vacant at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, when Pope Benedict’s resignation goes into effect.

The laws governing conclaves were laid down in 1996 in John Paul II’s apostolic constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis,” and were modified by Pope Benedict. According to existing law, the conclave cannot start until 15 days after the Papacy becomes vacant, to allow all the cardinal-electors enough time to arrive in Rome.

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