Vatican spokesman gives new details on pope's resignation
Father Lombardi talked about the pope's medical condition and his plans for the immediate and longer term future.
Even though Pope Benedict XVI will spend his retirement near Rome and then inside Vatican City, he will not play any role in the upcoming election for a new pope, and he will not interfere with the responsibilities and decision-making activities of the new pontiff, the Vatican spokesman said.
Rather, the new pope will have the prayerful support and empathy of someone who understands "more than anyone in the world" the burden and responsibilities of being a pope, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.
The spokesman also confirmed that Pope Benedict has a pacemaker and has had it "for some time." He said the battery recently was changed, but that the procedure had nothing to do with the pope's decision to resign.
Father Lombardi made his remarks Feb. 12, the day after the 85-year-old pope announced that, because of his age and waning energies, he was resigning effective Feb. 28.
The Jesuit spokesman described as an "indiscretion" a report in the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, which said Pope Benedict had gone to a private Rome clinic three months ago for a small "procedure" to change the batteries in his pacemaker.
The spokesman confirmed it was true and said it had been a "normal" and "routine" procedure.
The newspaper said the pope, who was elected in 2005, has had the pacemaker for 10 years. Father Lombardi confirmed it was put in while the pope was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
In response to questions about how a conclave and a new papacy will be played out while a former pope is still alive and living in the vicinity, Father Lombardi said, "there will be absolutely no problem" because Pope Benedict is a discreet and "extremely scrupulous" person. No one would ever expect from him any "interference or comments that would cause even minimal awkwardness or problems for his successor," he said.
"Rather, his successor will feel supported by the prayers and intensely loving presence and interest from someone who, more than anyone in the world, can understand and be interested in the worries of his successor," the priest said.
"Pope Benedict will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of the election," the spokesman said, "and not intervene in any way in the process," he said.
"You can be totally sure that the cardinals will be autonomous in their decision" in deciding on the next pope, he added.
Father Lombardi told journalists that the pope was free to decide where he wanted to live in his retirement. A monastery in the Vatican Gardens is currently being renovated for the pope's future residence. It will "guarantee him a certain autonomy and freedom," but at the same time, allow him to remain in the Vatican.
It was not clear who would be moving in with the pope to serve as his assistants, but Father Lombardi said the residence is small and number of staff would be, too.
Father Lombardi also announced that Pope Benedict's Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 13 was transferred from its ancient, traditional site to St. Peter's Basilica because of the large crowd expected.
Source: Catholic News Service
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