Top cardinal steps aside before papal election

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VATICAN CITY—While cardinals are on their way to Vatican City to elect a new pope, attention turned to the hasty resignation of Britain’s most senior cardinal.

A Vatican spokesperson confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI has changed the canon law that sets the rules for the election of the pope.

The conclave was meant to begin between March 15 and March 20, but now the cardinals will be allowed to start the conclave as early as the first week of the month.

Rev. Thomas Rosica, Vatican spokesman, said, “In terms of the beginning of the conclave, it is only determined once the cardinals begin meeting. We cannot expect that meeting to take place before March 1.”

In addition to the change, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation by Cardinal O’Brien.

Cardinal O’Brien released a statement saying he would not come to Rome and would not participate in the conclave.

He stated he did not want the media attention on him to take away from the election.

Cardinal O’Brien has been engulfed in allegations of sexual misconduct.

This is the first time a cardinal renounced his rights to participate in the election of the pope because of scandals.

All eyes are now turning to Cardinal Mahoney, of Los Angeles, who said he would come to Rome despite his scandal.

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