Vatican media advisor: Benedict "very relieved" by retirement decision

(CBS News) The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is an almost unprecedented event for the Catholic Church -- by Thursday evening, the pontiff will become the first pope to resign from the papacy in nearly 600 years.

Vatican media advisor Greg Burke explained Thursday on "CBS This Morning" that after the pope officially resigns this evening (2 p.m. Eastern), the cardinals will meet and "make a decision whether or not they will move the conclave up." The conclave to select Benedict's successor is required to begin by March 15, but the cardinals are expected to move it up as early as March 10.

Georgetown College dean and theology professor Chester Gillis added that factors in deciding the new pope will go beyond simply "age or geography."

"There are certain requisite skills," Gillis said before outlining some likely priorities for the voting cardinals.

"One is management skills... [and] linguistic skills... a person has to be fluent in Italian and English, minimally, to be able to run such an international organization." Gillis added that spirituality will be factor and explained that "some cardinals" have a deeper spirituality than others and it's evident to them." Lastly, Gillis said they will seek to appoint a new pope with a distinct "theological disposition...[a] relatively conservative one, with this group of cardinals, so that there's continuity between the last two popes and this pope."

Gillis rejected concerns that Benedict will remained involved in the Vatican after the new pope has been selected, saying, "I don't think he'll have influence over the new pope. He's made that very clear."

Still, Gillis admitted that exactly what role the Pope Emeritus -- as Benedict has decided to be called in retirement -- will play in the Vatican is somewhat unclear. "Everything about this is unprecedented and they're somewhat making it up as they go along," he said before adding, "there are no rules for this."

Burke added that Benedict "is very relieved" and "calmer than he has ever been with his decision" as he moves toward retirement.

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