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Outgoing pope to remain 'hidden from the world'

Benedict tells Rome clergy 'I am always close in prayer'

14 February, 16:08
Outgoing pope to remain 'hidden from the world' (ANSA) - Vatican City, February 14 - Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday he will remain "hidden to the world" after he steps down.

"Even if I step down now I am always close in prayer and you will all be close even if I remain hidden to the world," he said at the Vatican in his final audience with local clergy as pope and bishop of Rome.

"Let us hope that the Lord will help us. I, retired in prayer, will always be with you. And we will go forth with the Lord in the certainty that the Lord will conquer".

The Vatican on Thursday said that it will continue to take care of Benedict's security even when he is no longer pope, adding that he will always be accompanied by Church officials wherever he goes.

According to Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, Benedict will be escorted by Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, his personal secretary and head of the Papal Household, or by members of Memores Domini, a lay group that practices obedience, poverty and chastity.

After retiring on February 28, Benedict will stay at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome before moving to a monastery inside the Vatican that is currently being renovated.

Lombardi said the 85-year-old German pontiff will have an escort at both locations.

On Monday Benedict became the first pope in modern history to announce he would voluntarily step down from an otherwise lifetime position, prompting many to wonder how the Vatican would manage the rest of his life once a new pope assumes power.

Lombardi reiterated that the papal conclave of cardinals to elect the new head of the Catholic Church will not start until 15 to 20 days after Benedict steps down on February 28.

Roman clergy were visibly moved Thursday at Benedict's final audience with the local diocese. As Cardinal Agostino Vallini made his welcome address to the pontiff in the Paul VI Hall of the Vatican, many priests could not hold back their tears.

To resounding applause Wednesday, the pontiff thanked the priests "for your affection and great love for the pope". The pope said at his penultimate general audience on Wednesday that he had made his shock decision "in full liberty for the good of the Church".

He said he had done so "after praying for a long time and examining my conscience before God, well aware of the seriousness of this act, but equally aware of no longer being capable of exercising the Petrine ministry with the strength that this requires".

He also called on the faithful to keep praying for him even when he is no longer pope.