VATICAN CITY — Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican on May 2 by helicopter, coming back the same way he left just two months ago when he resigned as pope.
The return of a former pope is something that has no historical precedent, making everything new for the Vatican’s staff.
Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican’s Press Office, told Catholic News Agency April 30 that “there will be someone there to welcome Benedict XVI” but he is not yet sure who that will be.
The former pope will arrive by helicopter around 4:30 or 5pm and, after a brief greeting, will head to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where he will live a life of prayer and meditation.
Since he resigned from the papacy on Feb. 28, Benedict XVI has been living at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.
Blessed John Paul II opened the cloistered monastery in May 1994 as a place dedicated solely to prayer for the pope, his ministry and the cardinals.
It contains a chapel, a choir room, a library, a semi-basement, a terrace and a visiting room.
Different groups of nuns have lived in the monastery since it was created, rotating out every three years. But when Benedict XVI announced Feb. 11 that he would abdicate the papacy, the building was empty.
The last group of religious to live in Mater Ecclesiae left in November 2012, when the Vatican began renovations on the building to take replace old windows, fix a problem with humidity in the basement and make repairs to a rooftop terrace.
Mater Ecclesiae will also be home to four consecrated women who have taken care of the papal household since Benedict became pope in 2005 and his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who is also the head of the papal household.