Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, met with journalists to follow-up on yesterday’s announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will retire from the papacy at the end of February 28th.
Fr. Lombardi stated that after yesterday’s announcement, Pope Benedict has been serene and in peace. “It was not a decision that was taken lightly,” he said. “[The Holy Father] has been reflecting on this for some time.
Regarding the Holy Father’s schedule for the month, Fr. Lombardi confirmed that there will be no changes in appointments scheduled up until the See of Saint Peter is vacant.
Pope Benedict is expected to receive in audience several dignitaries and prelates including the presidents of Romania and Guatemala, as well the Bishops of Italy. The Holy Father will also celebrate several liturgies, including tomorrow’s Ash Wednesday Mass.
“There are important celebrations [this month]and Pope Benedict XVI is still very much our pope right now,” Fr. Lombardi affirmed.
The celebration of Ash Wednesday, which is usually held in the Church of St. Sabina in Rome, will instead take place in St. Peter’s Basilica. Given the recent events and the large numbers expected to attend in light of the Holy Father’s announcement, it was decided to have the celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica. The Holy Father will also meet with the clergy of Rome this Thursday, as well as the Angelus address on Sunday.
Pope Benedict’s Final General Audience will be on February 27th. Fr. Lombardi stated that the audience is expected to take place in St. Peter’s Square as opposed to the Paul VI Audience Hall to accommodate the large amount of pilgrims expected to come.
Life After Papacy
Fr. Lombardi stated that the Holy Father will live a solitary life of prayer and reflection in a former cloistered monastery within the grounds of the Vatican. When asked by one journalist regarding the future responsibilities of a former pope, Fr. Lombardi reiterated the Holy Father’s words at yesterday’s consistory.[Pope Benedict] will use this time for prayer and reflection and he does not have any responsibility in the administrative government of the Church. This is absolutely clear. This is the [reason for his] resignation; he has expressed his desire in the past that if he were not pope, he would spend his final years in prayer and reflection,” Fr. Lombardi said.
The director of the Holy See Press Office also confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will have no role in the upcoming conclave that will elect his successor. “The pope is a very discreet person,” Fr. Lombardi said. “He will say absolutely nothing regarding the process of the election and will not intervene in any way. In this sense, you can be sure that the cardinals will make this decision. He will have no specific role in this election.”
The upcoming World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will continue as scheduled with the presence of the newly elected Supreme Pontiff. “The Holy Father is convinced that the presence of the Pope is significant to the World Youth Day celebrations,” he said. “For this reason, after his election, he had absolutely no doubts about going to Cologne in 2005.”
“The successor of Pope Benedict XVI will be present at World Youth Day,” Fr. Lombardi confirmed.