HOUSTON -

Houston Area Catholics are sharing their thoughts about Pope Benedict XVI's decision to change the rules of conclave.

Popes from around the world will participate in the conclave to elect Benedict's successor. The rule change clears the way for the cardinals to gather in Rome as soon as Pope Benedict retires on Thursday, Feb. 28. Without rule change, cardinals would have had to delay a vote for 15 days in observance of the traditional waiting period.

"It's a recognition that this is an unusual situation with the papal resignation instead of the papal death and the need to have a period of mourning," said Mary Catherine Sommers, PhD., from the University of St. Thomas.

Sommers calls it a minor rule change and believes it is more likely that the cardinals, including Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of the Galveston Houston Archdiocese, will choose a new pope by Easter.

"The cardinals want to be home by Easter. It's the most solemn time of the church year, the highest of the church feast," said Sommers. "However, there are other cardinals who have said they don't want to rush the beginning of conclave. They think the cardinals have much to discuss before they go into conclave."

The conclave change came as a surprise for many local Catholics attending mass Monday afternoon at the Sacred Heart of the Co-Cathedra in downtown Houston.

"We as Catholics are very faithful to our pope, because we believe the holy spirit has really inspired the cardinals to chose our shepherd and we really look to him as our leader," said Mark Bocinsky.

Many Catholics also hope a new pope is named by Easter Sunday.

"All the popes we've had already have been good," said Peter Vasquez. "We just need someone a little younger to take the responsibility of the church."