Benedict comes home to new house, new po

May 05 [Sun], 2013, 19:33
VATICAN CITY (AP) Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI comes home on Thursday to a new house and a new pope, as an unprecedented era begins of a retired pontiff living side-by-side with a reigning one inside the Vatican gardens.

All eyes will be on Benedict's physical state as he is welcomed by Pope Francis at his new retirement home, a converted monastery tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica. The last time he was seen by the public March 23 Benedict appeared remarkably more frail and thin than when he left the Vatican on his final day as pope three weeks earlier.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, has acknowledged Benedict's post-retirement decline but insists the 86-year-old German isn't suffering from any ailment and is just old.

"He is a man who is not young: He is old and his strength is slowly ebbing," Lombardi said this week. "However, there is no special illness. He is an old man who is healthy."

Since his Feb. 28 resignation, Benedict has been "hidden to the world" as he himself predicted, living at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome. He chose to leave the Vatican immediately after his resignation to physically remove himself from the process of electing his successor and from Pope Francis' first weeks as pontiff.

His absence also gave workers time to finish up renovations on the monastery on the edge of the Vatican gardens that until last year housed groups of cloistered nuns who were invited for a few years at a time to live inside the Vatican to pray for the pontiff and church at large.

In the small building, with a chapel attached, Benedict will live with his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, and the four consecrated women who look after him, preparing his meals and tending to the household. Inside the small building, Benedict has at his disposal a small library and a study. A guest room is available for when his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, comes to visit.

"It is certainly small but well-equipped," Lombardi said.

When Benedict announced his intention to resign the first pontiff to do so in 600 years questions immediately swirled about the implications of having two popes living alongside one another inside the Vatican.

Benedict fueled those concerns when he chose to be called "emeritus pope" and "Your Holiness" rather than "emeritus bishop of Rome." He also raised eyebrows when he chose to continue wearing the white cassock of the papacy.

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