Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the Vatican Press Office, met today with reporters to answer questions concerning yesterday’s surprising announcement of the Holy Father’s impending resignation.
Catholic News Service has a very thorough report on the meeting, which yielded many interesting details about Pope Benedict’s decision and what the coming weeks will hold; that story can be read here. Vatican Radio’s report on Lombardi’s remarks is here.
Some items of particular interest:
— Father Lombardi confirmed that Pope Benedict has a pacemaker, and that it was put in before his election to the papacy. He also confirmed that Benedict had the batteries replaced three months ago during a “normal” and “routine” procedure at a private clinic in Rome.
— Pope Benedict’s anticipated fourth encyclical on faith will not be completed before his official resignation on February 28; Father Lombardi said it was possible the document “will be published under another form.”
— The conclave to elect Benedict’s successor must begin 15 to 20 days after the Holy See is officially vacant (which will occur on March 1).
— Lombardi emphasized that Benedict will have “no role whatsoever” in the conclave and will “not intervene in any way in the process” of electing a successor.
— The Holy Father’s last public Mass will be Ash Wednesday, and will be held at St. Peter’s Basilica rather than the traditional location of Santa Sabina Basilica, to accommodate the anticipated large crowd.
— Pope Benedict’s last general audience will be February 27, and will most likely take place in St. Peter’s Square, again to accommodate what is expected to be a very large crowd.
— Noting that the situation of a living former pope is “uncharted territory for us all,” Lombardi said that many details of Benedict’s status in the Church remain to be determined, included what title the former pontiff will hold. It is possible that he could be called the “bishop emeritus of Rome,” Lombardi said.