Vatican to speed up election of new Pope

The Vatican said on Saturday that it could speed up the election of a new pope as lobbying for Benedict XVI’s job intensified amid speculation over who had the best chance to succeed him.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, who earlier said the conclave would probably start on or after March 15 after the pope resigns on February 28, said the issue of bringing forward the date “has been raised by various cardinals”.

Benedict’s decision to step down for age reasons has revealed tensions at the heart of the Church, emphasised by a battle between top cardinals over whose candidate should be appointed to head up the Vatican’s scandal-hit bank.

The choice of German financier Ernst Von Freyberg was seen by some as a snub to the Vatican’s powerful number two, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had backed another candidate. “The appointment is fruit of a bitter compromise,” Il Messaggero daily said. It appeared to bring to the fore a power struggle between Bertone’s allies and his rivals reminiscent of Renaissance conspiracies — a bid to shape the hierarchy within the Vatican first revealed last year.

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