Lombardi: Focus on final days of Benedict XVI’s pontificate
(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign is not due to ill health but
the inevitable frailty that comes with aging, Fr. Federico Lombardi reiterated Tuesday
to a packed Vatican Press Office. It was a decision that the Holy Father matured
over time, particularly following his trip last year to Mexico and Cuba, when he realised
the physical toll of such trans-Atlantic journeys, which are part and parcel of the
Pope’s ministry. What’s important now, he said, is that we enjoy the last great events
of this pontificate. Emer McCarthy reports:
In the second
such briefing since the shock announcement Monday, the Director of the Holy See Press
office convoked journalists to clarify a series of questions from the International
press corps that has laid siege to the Vatican in the last 24 hours.
began by confirming the Pope’s calendar of appointments until 8pm, February 28th,
the time and date indicated by the Pope for his resignation from ministry. The Pope
chose this time, Lombardi told journalists, simply because it is when he usually ends
his working day.
The Press Office Director confirmed Italian newspaper reports
that Pope Benedict has a pacemaker, but pointed out that he has had it for 10 years,
even before being elected Pope. Fr Lombardi also confirmed that Benedict XVI had
a new battery installed three months ago in a routine procedure, but that his general
health was normal for a man nearing 86 years of age.
For many faithful news
that Benedict XVI’s highly anticipated encyclical on faith will not be published before
he steps down was somewhat disappointing, but Fr. Lombardi said, in all probability
it “will be published under another form”.
So what happens next?
to what happens next the spokesman reiterated that the Conclave must begin between
15 to 20 days from the commencement of the ‘Sede vacante’ or Vacant See, (March 1st)
and that it is not the Pope who convokes the Cardinals to Rome. He also reaffirmed
that Benedict XVI will have “no role whatsoever” in the conclave or choice of his
The Vatican’s Office for Protocol, Lombardi revealed, is already
studying the constitution and norms governing the Papacy to clarify the state and
situation of Benedict XVI once he resigns. What title he will be given, his role
within the Church and even the fate of the fisherman’s ring and papal seal. “It’s
unchartered territory for us all”, he said.
In the meantime, he encouraged
journalists not to miss the opportunity of the last great encounters of this pontificate.
These include: the two general audiences, February 13 and 27; Ash Wednesday celebrations
to be held this year in St Peter’s Basilica rather than St Sabina on the Aventine
Hill, his meeting with the priests of Rome on Thursday February 14th ;
the Sunday Angelus; his meeting with bishops from Italy on their Ad Limina pilgrimage
and two private audiences with visiting Heads of State, from Romania and Guatemala.
Fr. Lombardi drew particular attention to the decision to move Ash Wednesday
celebrations to St Peters. It was motivated by a question of space, to accommodate
those wishing to attend what will be the last great liturgical celebration of Pope
He also revealed in his meeting with Rome’s priests
this Thursday Pope Benedict XVI will focus on his personal memories and experiences
of Vatican II in what promises to be a touching and very personal encounter.