Premium Times (Abuja)

Nigeria: Pope Benedict Retiring Into Life of Prayers

After Pope Benedict XVI retires at the end of February, he will dedicate himself to a life of prayer and study in a Vatican-based monastery.

The Pope will first stay in Castel Gandolfo before eventually going back to the Vatican to live in Mater Ecclesiae monastery, EWTN, the Catholic Church's main media outfit reports.

The monastery is currently being renovated. It is normally inhabited by a group of nuns who pray for the ministry of the Pope, a mission Pope John Paul II gave to them.

"He will be dedicating himself to prayer and reflection," said Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, during an unexpected media event at the Holy See press office on Monday.

"The Pope will not be cloistered nor should he be considered confined in any way, and he will have his freedom," Mr. Lombardi said. "Certainly this is a new situation and we will see how he lives it."

Pope Benedict announced Monday, he will step down on February 28.

Mr. Lombardi dismissed suggestions that having two living popes may cause problems for the faith.

"I wouldn't have any fear about this because there's knowledge of Pope Benedict XVI as being discrete, and there would not be any interference with his successor," he said. "This would be completely against his personality."

Pope Benedict will still hold his title of cardinal that he had before he was elected Pope after he resigns.

Canon law states a meeting to choose the next Pope, a "conclave," must be held within a maximum of 20 days after his seat is vacant. This could mean the Church will have no head during most of Lent, but the Vatican hopes to have one by Easter.

The Vatican spokesman said the Pope's decision to resign was not "rash."

"He is not depressed or overwhelmed by his pontificate," Mr. Lombardi said.

This is the first time since Gregory XII relinquished his office in 1415 that a Pope has resigned.

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