VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI began a week-long spiritual retreat out of the public eye today ahead of his resignation, with the cardinal leading the prayers saying he hoped they would be an oasis.
The pope will remain in the Vatican with some of his closest aides for the traditional pre-Easter retreat and will only take a short break each day to meet with his secretary Georg Gaenswein to deal with urgent Church matters.
He will be praying together with the Roman Curia — effectively the government of the Catholic Church — in a private chapel in his residence.
The Vatican’s culture minister, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi — seen as a possible long-shot candidate for the papacy — has been selected to lead the retreat this year and has written 17 spiritual meditations for the week.
Ravasi said in an interview with Vatican radio before the beginning of the retreat that the pope wanted it himself and he did not cancel.
Benedict will formally step down as pope on February 28 at 1900 GMT.