Benedict says to be "hidden from world" after papacy
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will see out his life in prayer, "hidden from the world", he said on Thursday in his first personal comment on his plans since he stunned Roman Catholics by announcing his retirement.
His remarks, in a voice that was hoarse at times, followed Monday's resignation notice which spoke of "a life dedicated to prayer"; the Vatican has said the 85-year-old German will live within its walls. His seclusion may allay concern that the first living former pope in centuries might trouble Church unity.
Speaking unscripted to thousands of priests from the diocese of Rome, in what turned out to be a farewell address in his capacity as bishop of the Italian capital, Benedict outlined a cloistered life ahead, once he steps down in two weeks time:
"Even if I am withdrawing into prayer, I will always be close to all of you and I am sure that you will be close to me, even if I remain hidden to the world," he said.
After February 28, when he becomes the first pontiff in hundreds of years to resign instead of ruling for life, Benedict will first go to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, and then move permanently into the four-storey Mater Ecclesiae convent, in the gardens behind St. Peter's Basilica.
The Vatican has already said that he will not influence the election of his successor, which will take place in a secret conclave to start between March 15 and 20 in the Sistine Chapel.
But his unprepared comments to his priests at the emotional meeting in the Vatican's modern audience hall was the first time the pope had spoken specifically in public about how he will spend his time after his resignation.
The Vatican, which is navigating uncharted waters since his shock announcement, said experts have still not decided what his title will be or whether he will wear the white of a pope, the red of a cardinal or the black of an ordinary priest. Continued...