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Benedict XVI's resignation 'not a surprise for intimates'

Vatican spokesman talks to Vatican Radio about retired pope

10 February, 13:43
Benedict XVI's resignation 'not a surprise for intimates' (ANSA) - Vatican City, February 10 - Pope Benedict XVI's resignation early last year came as no surprise to people who knew him, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Monday. Speaking to Vatican Radio, Lombardi said those closely following Joseph Ratzinger in the months prior to his February 2013 announcement that shocked the world, had understood that the pontiff was meditating, praying and reflecting on whether to step down.

Lombardi called Benedict's gesture a "great act of government". "It had been centuries since a pope had resigned, and thus for the vast majority of people, it concerned an unusual and surprising gesture. In reality, for those who closely accompanied Benedict XVI, we understood that he was reflecting on this subject, and he had explicitly said it in his conversation with (German journalist and author) Peter Seewald some time before," said Lombardi.

"Thus it was a theme on which he prayed, reflected, assessed and made his spiritual judgement," continued Lombardi.

"What I say, and what I said then, is that it seemed to me a great act of government, that is a decision taken freely that truly affects the situation and the history of the Church".

Lombardi said the action was "done with deep spirituality, great preparation" and "great courage", because the unusualness of the decision meant facing possible problems of perception and uncertainty over how the news would be received and interpreted.

Lombardi added that he never feared the coexistence of a pope emeritus and a reigning pope. If the pope is oriented toward "service and not power", there is no fear of colliding leaders. The Vatican spokesman described Benedict's life as "discrete" but not "isolated". "I believe that it is right to realise that he lives in a discrete way, without a public dimension; but this does not mean that he lives in isolation, shut in like (someone in) a strict cloister".

"He does normal activities for an elderly person - a religious elderly person," said Lombardi, explaining that Benedict leads a life of prayer, reflection, reading, writing letters and meeting with people he is close to. Benedict also meets with and exchanges messages with reigning Pope Francis, Lombardi said.

"One has gone to the home of the other and vice versa. Then there are other forms of contact that can be the telephone or messages sent - a completely normal relationship, I'd say, and one of solidarity".

"It is beautiful for us, when we have those rare images of the two popes together and who pray together".