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February 12, 2013

Retiring Pope Benedict XVI in uncharted territory

(Continued)

VATICAN CITY —

The Vatican's senior communications adviser, Greg Burke, said Tuesday the fact that Benedict had chosen to live in a monastery is significant.

"It is something that he has wanted to do for a while," Burke said. "But I think it also suggests that his role is going to be a very quiet one, and that is important so you don't have a situation of ... two different popes at the same time, and one influencing the other.

"I think the obvious thing is when he says retirement, it really means retiring," he said.

As for his name, Burke said Benedict would most likely be referred to "Bishop of Rome, emeritus" as opposed to "Pope Emeritus." Lombardi also said Benedict would take some kind of "emeritus" title.

Other Vatican officials said it would probably be up to the next pope to decide Benedict's new title, and wouldn't exclude that he might still be called "Your Holiness" as a courtesy, much as retired presidents are often referred to as "President." It was not clear whether the retired pope will retain the name Benedict - or revert to being called Joseph Ratzinger again.

Benedict had important unfinished business before his retirement: He has been widely expected to issue his fourth encyclical, concerning faith, before Easter. But Lombardi ruled out that the encyclical would be ready before his retirement.

Already, Benedict was changing his schedule to take into account his new circumstances. He had been scheduled to go to a church on Rome's Aventine hill for the annual Ash Wednesday service this week starting the church's Lenten season; the service will take place in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome instead. Lombardi said a larger space was needed to accommodate the throngs expected to greet the outgoing pope - but observers suspect the Vatican may have also wanted to spare Benedict from the crowds along the hill.

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