2013-02-25 Vatican Radio(Vatican Radio) Conclave can begin before March 15th, but this very much depends on the Congregation of Cardinals, electors and non electors, who will only be convoked to their first meeting as of March 1st.
And individual cardinals can decide not to participate in conclave on health grounds or for other serious reasons, but must communicate their non-participation to the Holy See.
Moreover, anyone involved in the Conclave, from ushers to technicians and secretaries, will be bound to an oath of secrecy. Should they, directly or indirectly, receive information regarding the papal election and reveal this to anyone outside of conclave, they will incur excommunication latae sententiae, as opposed to the former ‘severe penalties’ to have been decided by the future Pope.
These in essence are the main changes made to the norms governing the period of the Vacant See and papal election as laid down in the Motu Poprio promulgated Monday by Pope Benedict XVI and presented to press by the deputy-camerlegno, Bishop Luigi Celata. Emer McCarthy reports:
Titled entitled "Normas nonnullas” the document introduces "some changes" to the legislation Universi Dominici Gregis, but reaffirms that the starting date of the conclave is a decision the rests solely with the General Congregation. In reality, as Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See pointed out, the Congregation will only be convoked by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Card. Angelo Sodano on March Ist, the first day of the Vacant See. Fr. Lombardi added that the date for the conclave in all probability will not be the “first thing that they will decide."
Another issue the briefing dealt with was the conclusion of the Commission of Cardinals investigations into the leaking of the Pope’s private information to press. Fr. Lombardi said the three cardinals on the Comission, Julián Herranz, Jozef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi were received by the Pope Monday morning:
“The Holy Father wished to thank them for their fruitful work, expressing satisfaction for the results of the investigation. In fact, their work made it possible to detect, given the limitations and imperfections of the human component of each institution, the generosity, honesty and dedication of those who work in the Holy See at the service of the mission entrusted by Christ to the Roman Pontiff. The Holy Father has decided that the facts of this investigation, the contents of which are known only to Himself, will be made available exclusively to the new Pontiff".
Fr. Lombardi added that the three cardinals of the Commission will participate fully in the General Congregations, where they too will have the occasion to express their own convictions. But it was also pointed out that participants in the Congregations are also buond to secrecy.
Returning to the Motu Proprio, it has been established that once Conclave has started a two-third majority is required for a valid election, “calculated on the basis of the electors present and voting" and that if after three days the votes do not come to a result, "one day should be dedicated to prayer, reflection and dialogue". In subsequent rounds of voting, "only the two names which in the previous rounds had the highest number of votes will be considered, and the provision of a two third majority of the Cardinals present and voting for a valid election will remain”. Finally, the Motu proprio states that the two candidates whose names who be put forward in subsequent votes cannot vote.