VATICAN — Pope Benedict XVI is considering modifying the laws that govern how a pope is elected, given the circumstances created by his resignation.

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists Feb. 20 that Pope Benedict is thinking about publishing a document to further clarify the conclave section of the apostolic constitution.

This means he would have to issue a motu proprio — a new set of legal regulations — before he steps down on Feb. 28. The Latin title motu proprio is a designation that means the document is personally signed by the pope and is issued solely under his authority.

“I don’t know if he will deem it necessary or appropriate to elucidate the question of the opening date of the conclave,” said Father Lombardi Feb. 20 at the press office.

“It seems, to me, for example, (it would include) the clarification of some details in order to be in complete agreement with another document regarding the conclave, that is, the Ordo Rituum,” he stated.

According to canon law, the conclave to elect a new pope should take place between March 15 and 20.

But since the traditional nine days of mourning will not take place, and the Pope has given 17 days notice, the election process could take place as soon as the cardinals are able to reach Rome.

Father Lombardi added: “In any case, the question depends on the Pope’s judgment and if this document comes about, it will be made known through the proper channels.”