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Religion

February 12, 2013

Vatican sends message: Pope's retirement for real

VATICAN CITY — The papal ring will be destroyed, along with other powerful emblems of authority, just as they are after a pope's death. The retiring Pope Benedict XVI will live in a monastery on the edge of the Vatican gardens and will likely even give up his beloved theological writing.

The Vatican went out of its way Tuesday to declare that for Benedict, retirement means just that: Retirement.

With speculation swirling about his future role, the Vatican's chief spokesman explicitly stated that Benedict will not influence the election of his successor.

And the Rev. Federico Lombardi deepened the sense of finality by saying that after his Feb. 28 abdication, "objects strictly connected" with the papal ministry will be "terminated." Among these is the papal ring, used as a seal for documents, which is smashed upon a pope's death.

And while the first papal resignation in 600 years has left behind a vast uncharted territory to navigate — how does one address or even dress a retired pope? — the church sought to send a clear message that Benedict will not be pulling strings from behind the scenes.

"The pope will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of the election," Lombardi told reporters at a briefing. "He will not interfere in any way."

The Vatican has already picked out the pope's future home: A four-story building attached to a monastery on the northern edge of the Vatican gardens where cloistered nuns used to live. It has been under renovation for several months, although only a handful of Vatican officials knew that it would one day be Benedict's retirement home.

On Tuesday, construction materials littered the front lawn of the house and plastic tubing snaked down from the top floor to a cargo container.

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