Vatican plans big send off for pope, consultations begin

Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:01pm EST
 
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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Cardinals around the world began informal contacts to discuss who should next lead the Church through a period of major crisis and the Vatican said it planned a big send-off for Pope Benedict before he becomes the first pontiff in centuries to resign.

At a Tuesday news conference on how the pope plans to spend the next two weeks before he steps out of the limelight, the Vatican also disclosed that the 85-year-old Benedict has been wearing a pacemaker since before he was elected pope in 2005.

It said no specific illness led him to resign, merely old age and diminishing mental and physical strength.

It also said he would not play any role in the running of the Church after his February 28 resignation.

"The pope has said in his declaration that he will use his time for prayer and reflection and will not have any responsibility for guidance of the Church or any administrative or government responsibility," said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

"This is absolutely clear and this is the sense of the resignation," Lombardi said, adding that he "will not intervene in any way" in trying to influence the choice of his successor.

The shock announcement sent the Vatican scrambling to change venues of some papal activities so that more people can see him before the resignation.

On Wednesday, the pope was to have led a traditional Ash Wednesday service at a small church in Rome but the event has been moved to St Peter's Basilica for what will likely be his last Mass in public.   Continued...

 
St Peter's Basilica is pictured at the Vatican February 12, 2013. Pope Benedict stunned the Roman Catholic Church on Monday when he announced he would stand down, the first pope to do so in 700 years, saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to carry on. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION)