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Benedict's resignation no surprise to loved ones

'Great act of government and courage' says Vatican spokesman

10 February, 19:22
Benedict's resignation no surprise to loved ones (By Giovanna Chirri) (ANSA) - Vatican City, February 10 - Those closest to Pope Benedict XVI had long understood that he was thinking about leaving the papacy, said Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Monday. The German-born Joseph Ratzinger's resignation was "a great act of government," he said, adding that there was never any concern over having both an emeritus pope and a reigning one, since the papacy "is a service and not a power". Thus, he said, coexistence should not be a problem. Benedict XVI is no longer in the public spotlight but continues with a life filled with relationships, meetings, and spiritual exchanges, including ones with Pope Francis.

Father Lombardi, Benedict XVI's spokesman from September 2006 until the end of his papacy, spoke in-depth on Vatican Radio about the groundbreaking decision made by the pope emeritus that was announced a year ago on Tuesday. Lombardi, who stood by Benedict XVI's side through difficult periods including the Regensburg address and the ensuing fallout, as well as the emergence of a scandal involving widespread child abuse at the hands of priests in Europe, touched on the daily life and calmness of the papacy. Now that Benedict XVI is no longer the pope, the Jesuit priest said, he is more at ease in his role as "wise man" - or even "saint", as he called him - who can help the Church and the young to look towards the future with hope. Lombardi noted that no pope had resigned for centuries, and thus the announcement had come as a shock to many.

However, he added, "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.

He said that Benedict had shown the "serenity and necessary strength" to put the decision into practice, moving forward with "courage and serenity, with a vision of true faith and expectation that the Lord would not abandon his Church's side".

The Jesuit priest concluded by saying that "this sense of the Holy Spirit's accompanying the Church as it moves forward has come into being entirely".