VATICAN CITY — After Pope Benedict XVI retires at the end of February, he will dedicate himself to a life of prayer and study in a Vatican-based monastery.
The Pope, who announced today he will step down on Feb. 28, will first stay in Castel Gandolfo, before eventually going back to the Vatican to live in Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.
The monastery is currently being renovated, but it is normally inhabited by a group of nuns who pray for the ministry of the Pope, a mission Pope John Paul II gave to them.
“He will be dedicating himself to prayer and reflection,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, during an unexpected Feb. 11 media event at the Holy See Press Office.
“The Pope will not be cloistered, nor should he be considered confined in any way, and he will have his freedom,” said Father Lombardi.
“Certainly, this is a new situation, and we will see how he lives it,” he added.
Some fear having two popes alive will cause problems, but Father Lombardi dismissed those suggestions.
“I wouldn’t have any fear about this because there’s a knowledge of Pope Benedict XVI as being discrete, and there would not be any interference with his successor,” said Father Lombardi.
“This would be completely against his personality,” he noted.
On the matter of how the Pope came to his decision, the Vatican spokesman said it was “not a rash decision; he is not depressed or overwhelmed by his pontificate.”
Canon law states a meeting to choose the next pope, a “conclave,” must be held within a maximum of 20 days after his seat is vacant.
This could mean the Church will have no head during most of Lent, but the Vatican hopes to have one by Easter.
This is the first time since Gregory XII relinquished his office in 1415 that a pope has resigned.
Pope Benedict will still hold his title of cardinal, which he had before he was elected Pope.