Pope Benedict plans to retire to a former cloistered monastery within the Vatican, the director of the Vatican press office has disclosed.
Father Federico Lombardi told reporters that immediately after his resignation on February 28, the Pope will spend some time at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandalfo, while renovations are done on the monastery. Once settled into his new quarters, Father Lombardi said that the former Pope would like to continue his theological studies.
Father Lombardi admitted that he has been taken by surprise by the Pope’s February 11 announcement, but observed that Pope Benedict’s prior comments on the possibility of a papal resignation were consistent with his ultimate decision to resign. In a book-length interview with journalist Peter Seewald in July 2010, which was later published as Light of the World, the Pope said that a Pontiff should step down if and when he became physically unable to carry out his duties.
“Personally,” Lombardi concluded, “I received the announcement of the Pope’s resignation with great admiration, for its great valour, for the Holy Father’s freedom of spirit and great concern for the responsibility of his ministry.”
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Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Pontiff’s older brother, said that Benedict XVI had been thinking about resignation for some months. “His age is weighing on him,” Msgr. Ratzinger said.
Speaking in his capacity as Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano told the Pontiff that other cardinals had heard his surprise announcement “with a sense of loss and almost disbelief.” But he acknowledged that the Pope’s resignation showed “the great affection that you have always had for God’s Holy Church,” and assured him that the cardinals “are closer than ever to you.” Cardinal Sodano told the Pontiff that “the stars always continue to shine and so will the star of your pontificate always shine among us.”