Pope to be prayerful presence in next papacy, spokesman says

VATICAN CITY - Even though Pope Benedict XVI 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 activities 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.

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, Father 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," he said.

"You can be totally sure that the cardinals will be autonomous in their decision" in deciding on the next pope, he added.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970