Vatican sends message: Pope’s retirement for real
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The papal ring will be destroyed, along with other powerful emblems of authority, just as they are after a pope’s death. The retiring Pope Benedict XVI will live in a monastery on the edge of the Vatican gardens and will likely even give up his beloved theological writing.
The Vatican went out of its way Tuesday to declare that for Benedict, retirement means just that: Retirement.
With speculation swirling about his future role, the Vatican’s chief spokesman explicitly stated that Benedict will not influence the election of his successor.
And the Rev. Federico Lombardi deepened the sense of finality by saying that after his Feb. 28 abdication, “objects strictly connected” with the papal ministry will be “terminated.” Among these is the papal ring, used as a seal for documents, which is smashed upon a pope’s death.
And while the first papal resignation in 600 years has left behind a vast uncharted territory to navigate — how does one address or even dress a retired pope? — the church sought to send a clear message that Benedict will not be pulling strings from behind the scenes.
“The pope will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of the election,” Lombardi told reporters at a briefing. “He will not interfere in any way.”
The Vatican has already picked out the pope’s future home: A four-story building attached to a monastery on the northern edge of the Vatican gardens where cloistered nuns used to live. It has been under renovation for several months, although only a handful of Vatican officials knew it would one day be Benedict’s retirement home.
On Tuesday, construction materials littered the front lawn of the house and plastic tubing snaked down from the top floor to a cargo container.
From a new name to this new home to the awkward reality of having a reigning pope and a retired one, the 85-year-old Benedict has plenty of decisions to make.
Benedict said Monday he was stepping down because he simply no longer had the strength in mind or body to carry on. On Tuesday, Lombardi revealed for the first time that the pope has had a pacemaker for years and just had its battery replaced a few months ago.
Although no date for a conclave to choose the next pope has been announced, it must begin within 20 days of his Feb. 28 retirement. That means a new pope will likely be elected by the College of Cardinals by Easter — March 31 this year.
The decision immediately raised questions about what Benedict would be called, where he would live — and how that might affect his successor.
The Vatican’s senior communications adviser, Greg Burke, said Tuesday the fact Benedict had chosen to live in a monastery is significant.
“It is something that he has wanted to do for a while,” Burke said. “But I think it also suggests that his role is going to be a very quiet one, and that is important so you don’t have a situation of ... two different popes at the same time, and one influencing the other.
“I think the obvious thing is when he says retirement, it really means retiring,” he said.
Lombardi said Benedict would eventually return to the Vatican and live at a monastery inside the Vatican gardens. Asked if he might like to go somewhere else, Lombardi said the pope would feel “much safer” inside the Vatican walls.
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