CNS PHOTO | L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO VIA REUTERS
Pope Benedict attends a Feb. 11 meeting with cardinals at the Vatican announcing he will resign at the end of the month.
Even though Pope Benedict will spend his retirement near Rome and then inside Vatican City, he will not play any role in the upcoming election for a new pope, and he will not interfere with the responsibilities and decision-making of the new pontiff, the Vatican spokesman said.
Rather, the new pope will have the prayerful support and empathy of someone who understands "more than anyone in the world" the burden and responsibilities of being a pope, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.
The spokesman also confirmed that Pope Benedict has a pacemaker and has had it "for some time." He said the battery recently was changed, but that the procedure had nothing to do with the pope's decision to resign.
In response to questions about how a conclave and a new papacy will be played out while a former pope is still alive and living in the vicinity, Lombardi said, "there will be absolutely no problem" because Pope Benedict is a discreet and "extremely scrupulous" person.
No one would ever expect from him any "interference or comments that would cause even minimal awkwardness or problems for his successor," he said.
"Rather, his successor will feel supported by the prayers and intensely loving presence and interest from someone who, more than anyone in the world, can understand and be interested in the worries of his successor," the priest said.
"Pope Benedict will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of the election," the spokesman said, "and not intervene in any way in the process."
Lombardi told journalists that the pope was free to decide where he wanted to live in his retirement.
A monastery in the Vatican Gardens is currently being renovated for the pope's future residence. It will "guarantee him a certain autonomy and freedom," but at the same time, allow him to remain in the Vatican.
All of Pope Benedict's appointments for February were confirmed, Lombardi said.
Pope Benedict's last general audience, Feb. 27, is likely to be held in St. Peter's Square instead of in the Vatican audience hall since the hall holds only 7,000 people and the square can hold tens of thousands, he said.
Lombardi said that, at least as of Feb. 12, no special events were scheduled to mark the end of the pope's pontificate.
Events already on the pope's calendar would provide ample opportunity for Vatican officials and pilgrims to see the pope and show their affection, he said.
The Vatican spokesman said the pope's fourth encyclical, a letter on the theological virtue of faith, was unlikely to be ready for publication before his resignation at the end of the month.
The hoped-for document will either not be published under his pontificate or it will not appear "in the usual form of an encyclical," he said.
Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, had written in the paper's Feb. 12 edition that the pope had started to think about stepping down after his trip to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012.
Lombardi said the trip undoubtedly played a role in the pope's ongoing reflection about retiring.
Concerning what the pope will be called after he steps down, that, too, needs to be determined, though it was certain he would not hold the title of cardinal, nor would he be eligible to hold any office in the Roman Curia, because he is over 80 years old.
However, it was conceivable that he could be referred to as "bishop emeritus of Rome," he said.
Lombardi said he expects there will be a new pope by Easter, March 31, reminding journalists that Pope Benedict was elected just 17 days after the sede vacante that began after Blessed John Paul II's death.