Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI is clearing the decks of his pontificate, making last-minute appointments and tweaking the rules of the conclave and religious rites used to launch the next papacy once he has resigned.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said in its late Friday editions that Benedict had signed a decree earlier in the week making changes to the papal installation Mass, separating out the actual rite of installation from the liturgy itself.

He is also studying the text of a separate document governing the rules of the conclave, though it's not known if it will address the thorny issue of whether the election can begin earlier than March 15, by some interpretations the earliest day stipulated under the current rules. - Sapa-AP