With less than two weeks left before Pope Benedict XVI abdicates the throne of St. Peter, the Vatican appears intent on moving fast to find a replacement. Though the College of Cardinals normally doesn't meet to elect a new pope until the position has been empty for 15 days — it takes time to get all 117 of them in one place — a Vatican spokesman tells the AP that "it is possible that church authorities can prepare a proposal to be taken up by the cardinals on the first day after the papal vacancy" and that a conclave could be held before March 15 — in time to install the next pontiff before the all-important Holy Week services leading up to Easter Sunday.
In the meantime, Pope Benedict did an interview with German magazine Focus in which he denied that the betrayal of his document-leaking butler prompted him to call it quits. "It is not as though I were somehow falling into a kind of desperation or world-weariness," he told journalist Peter Seewald, though he did call his butler's actions "simply incomprehensible." In fact, he'd already been considering resigning back in March of last year. As he told Seewald back in August, "I'm an old man and my strength is diminishing. And I think what I have done is enough."