VATICAN CITY — At a press briefing to preview the Pope’s final events, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said now is a time to grow spiritually and not fabricate stories on possible Vatican division.
“We’re in a deep spiritual time, and we should be preparing ourselves for the sede vacante (vacant seat) and the new pope,” said Father Lombardi, the Holy See Press Office director.
“Now is a time for seeking the spiritual well-being of everyone within the Church. I personally invite you to prepare yourself spiritually for this,” he said at a Feb. 21 press briefing.
He told journalists, “It is natural that there are comments these days that tend to incite talk about conflict and organized groups within the Church.”
“It was foreseeable that this would happen in a situation like this, but it is not what the Holy Father and the Church invite us to do,” said Father Lombardi.
When discussing whether the conclave could be moved to an earlier date, Father Lombardi noted “there is no possibility of giving a date before the decision is made by the congregation of the cardinals during the sede vacante.”
Father Lombardi also detailed the Pope’s events over the last seven days of his pontificate.
The Holy Father is currently attending the annual Lenten spiritual exercises, which will end on Feb. 23. He will deliver a short speech of thanks to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi for preaching the meditations and extend his greeting to the Curia members that participated in the weeklong retreat.
Pope Benedict will then meet privately with Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, and his delegation at 11:30am.
Sunday, Feb. 24, will be the last Angelus gathering presided over by Benedict XVI.
The final public event for Pope Benedict will be his Feb. 27 general audience, during which he will travel around St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile to greet the public.
“It’s an audience that we will live with great emotions, but the structure will not change,” Father Lombardi said.
The Pope will then meet with all the cardinals who are in Rome on Feb. 28, including those who will have traveled from abroad.
Each cardinal will have a chance to greet him personally.
In the evening, Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and will travel by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo, where he will greet locals at the square and be received by the town’s mayor and the parish priest.