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Alec Feb 15th, 2013 01:28 AM

As the Pope and the Roman Curia go into the week-long Lenten retreat this coming weekend, the only big public event will be the last General Audience on 27th at 10.30 am in St Peter's Square. There will be tens of thousands there to get the last glimpse of Pope Benedict, and apart from ticket holders, many more are expected to pack the Square and surrounding streets (procedure will be carried on giant screens set up along the Via della Conciliazione). Then the Pope is expected to bid farewell to cardinals and other close staff next day, before flying by helicopter to the summer palace at Castel Gandolfo, while his eventual home within the Vatican at the Convent of Mater Ecclesiae is being readied, where he will live for the rest of his life away from public gaze, in prayer and contemplation.
Papal Conclave to elect his successor must be convened between 15th to 20th March, and I imagine the earlier date is preferred so as not to clash with non-curial cardinals' existing commitment in their dioceses for Holy Week (starting 24th).
Since this isn't like previous <i>sede vacante</i> following the death of a pope, I think it will be business as usual, except that the Vatican Museums will be closed for some time leading up to the conclave and during it. So if you are planning to visit in March, you should check the official site for announcements. St Peter's may be closed at certain times, and Scavi tours may be suspended - again the official Vatican site should carry details. As for the rest of Rome, it will be business as usual, though I'd expect the number of casual pilgrims to swell and put pressure on accommodation during the conclave, and into Holy Week and Easter with a new Pope.

flanneruk Feb 15th, 2013 11:06 AM

"where he will live for the rest of his life away from public gaze, in prayer and contemplation"

Do we know that?

If it's true, as opposed to just a bit of Vatican spin doctor guff, it would be a minor tragedy.

Benedict's been dreadful, both as Pope and as JP II's effective Regent, in getting on top of the Curia's scandalous mishandling of the paedophile catastrophe. But he's a brilliant theologian, teacher and writer.

A decent politician in his situation would use retirement to advocate the things he believes in - as will Rowan Williams. Clinton, Carter and the Queen Mother (and a huge proportion of the House of Lords) are all outstanding examples of the retired being better at what they do well when no longer having a job where they've also got to do something they're not very good at.

He might not want to strut the world stage a la Blair. But writing a few good books would be a lot more use than life as a hermit.

Alec Feb 15th, 2013 11:31 AM

I doubt very much if we ever hear from Pope Benedict (as Bishop Emeritus of Rome?) after retirement, let alone see him in public. As the first pope in 600 years to abdicate, and over 700 years to do so of his own free will, there just isn't a place for a former pope in the governance of the Catholic Church, and any utterance or writing will inevitably draw comparison with his successor and will affect his pontificate one way or the other. Benedict's prayerful support for the new Supreme Pontiff is all that we can take for granted, and all we are ever likely to get. The enclosure of Mater Dei Convent will prove to be an effective safeguard for the good of the Church.

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