VATICAN CITY (RNS) Still reeling from Monday's announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will become the first pope in 600 years to resign, the Vatican is attempting to return to normal, but many questions about the future remain unanswered.

"I don't know" was the most common response from the Vatican's top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, at a press conference on Tuesday (Feb. 12), as he was peppered with questions about everything from what Benedict will be called in retirement, to whether he will still be a cardinal, to who will live with him in his retirement inside a Vatican convent.

The Vatican, an institution bound up in centuries of tradition, is facing the unprecedented reality of having two popes living at the same time, and Lombardi frankly admitted that the Vatican is still working out the details on many unresolved issues.

According to Edward Peters, a blogger and expert in church governance, while canon law explicitly allows the possibility of a papal resignation, what it doesn't "treat of -- and has not experienced for nearly 600 years -- is the status of a former pope."

For instance, it is not clear what Benedict's status and role will be inside the Vatican and within the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Will he be called "bishop emeritus" of Rome, as normally happens for retired bishops, or will a new title be devised for him?

Formally, the pope is still the bishop of the Eternal City, but Peters stressed that, with his Feb. 28 resignation, Benedict will relinquish "the distinguishable but inseparable offices of the papacy and the bishopric of Rome, so, effective the evening of February 28, he will hold neither office."

Similarly, a highly symbolic question lingers over the fate of traditional insignia of papal power, such as the the papal seal or the Fisherman's Ring that are usually destroyed after a pope's death.

Then there is the question of whether Benedict will take part in Vatican rites -- such as the installation ceremony for his successor -- as is customary for other retired churchmen who reside in Vatican City. It's a significant question because any gesture from the retired pope might risk overshadowing his successor's work and authority.

"Even if his decision has been taken a while ago, I think it will take time and tranquility for the pope to reflect on how to live in his new condition," Lombardi answered.

Nevertheless, the Vatican spokesman was adamant in affirming that Benedict will keep a low profile and will "not intervene in any way in the process" of electing his successor. "He is a very discreet person," he said.

Benedict will settle in a small cloistered convent inside the Vatican walls, where Lombardi said renovations to prepare for the pope's arrival started last fall after the last group of nuns left the building.

The Vatican spokesman also confirmed that Benedict underwent "routine surgery" about three months ago to replace batteries in his pacemaker, but denied that it was in any way connected with Benedict's decision to step down.

The Vatican's semiofficial newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported on Monday that Benedict's decision was taken about a year ago, after an exhausting trip to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012.

In his last two weeks as pope, Benedict will keep his usual schedule, meeting with heads of state and bishops from all over the world, and there will be no special farewell event, Lombardi stated.

However, an Ash Wednesday Mass (Feb. 13) has been moved to St. Peter's Basilica in preparation for large attendance by believers.

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  • Benedict XVI

    RECROP OF VAT114 - In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Mons. Franco Comaldo, a pope aide, left, looks at Pope Benedict XVI as he reads a document in Latin where he announces his resignation, during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • Benedict XVI

    In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, center, reads a document in Latin where he announces his resignation, during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

  • Britain's Prince Philip (L) watches as h

    Britain's Prince Philip (L) watches as his wife Queen Elizabeth talks with Pope Benedict XVI during an exchange of gifts in the Morning Drawing Room, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 16, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI urged all parties involved in Northern Ireland to work for a 'just and lasting peace' in his first speech of an historic state visit to Britain on Thursday. AFP PHOTO / DAVID CHESKIN / POOL (Photo credit should read DAVID CHESKIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Pope Benedict XVI receives a picture fro

    Pope Benedict XVI receives a picture from US President George W. Bush during a tete-a-tete in the medieval St John's Tower in the Vatican Gardens on June 13, 2008. US President George W. Bush had a special audience with Pope Benedict XVI, who was returning the hospitality he enjoyed at the White House in April. AFP PHOTO / Filippo Monteforte (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • In this photo released by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, seated in his studio at the Vatican City, uses an iPad device to light up one of the world's largest electronic Christmas trees in Gubbio, central Italy, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

  • Madeleine McCanns Parents Visit The Pope

    VATICAN CITY - MAY 30: Pope Benedict XVI meets Gerry and Kate McCann during his weekly audience at St. Peter's Square, May 30, 2007 in Vatican City. The parents of four-year-old Madeleine McCann discussed the plight of their daughter, who vanished 27 days ago whilst holidaying in Portugal. (Photo by Arturo Mari L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Pool via Getty Images)

  • The Pope Meets With President Obama

    VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JULY 10: US President Barack Obama (L) meets with Pope Benedict XVI in his library at the Vatican on July 10, 2009 in Vatican City, Vatican. Obama was meeting with The Pope for the first time as President following the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • The Pope Meets With President Obama

    VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JULY 10: US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with Pope Benedict XVI in his library at the Vatican on July 10, 2009 in Vatican City, Vatican. Obama was meeting with The Pope for the first time as President following the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • In this photo released by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, seated in his studio at the Vatican City, uses an iPad device to light up one of the world's largest electronic Christmas tree in Gubbio, central Italy, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, HO) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

  • VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE-INTERNET-TWITTER

    Pope Benedict XVI clicks on a tablet to send his first twitter message during his weekly general audience on December 12, 2012 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI sent his first Twitter message from a digital tablet on Wednesday using the handle @pontifex, blessing his hundreds of thousands of new Internet followers. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Tony Blair Meets With Pope Benedict XVI

    VATICAN CITY - JUNE 23: Pope Benedict XVI meets outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair in a private audience at his library, on June 23, 2007 in Vatican City. (Photo by L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • Tony Blair Meets With Pope Benedict XVI

    VATICAN CITY - JUNE 23: Pope Benedict XVI meets outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair in a private audience at his library, on June 23, 2007 in Vatican City. (Photo by L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • Tony Blair Meets With Pope Benedict XVI

    VATICAN CITY - JUNE 23: Pope Benedict XVI meets outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair in a private audience at his library, on June 23, 2007 in Vatican City. (Photo by L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • In this photo released by Cubadebate, Pope Benedict XVI, right, meets with Cuba's Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday March 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Cubadebate)

  • Pope Benedict XVI Makes First Visit To Cuba

    HAVANA, CUBA - MARCH 29: Pope Benedict XVI meets with former Cuban President Fidel Castro (L) at the Vatican embassy on March 29, 2012 in Havana, Cuba. The Pope is finishing up his first trip to Cuba, fourteen years after Pope John Paul II visited the communist country. (Photo by L'Osservatore Romano Vatican-Pool/Getty Images)

  • VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE-FILES

    (FILES) This recent file picture taken on February 6, 2013 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican shows Pope Benedict XVI arriving for the weekly general audience. The Vatican spokesman announced that Pope says he will resign on February 28. AFP PHOTO / FILES / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

    Pope Benedict XVI (R) and his personal secretary Georg Gaenswein arrive for the weekly general audience on February 06, 2013 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Benedict XVI

    Pope Benedict XVI gets up after kneeling for a prayer during his visit at the Roman seminary, in Rome Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • VATICAN-POPE-CONCERT

    RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano (2nd R) sits flanked by Pope Benedict XVI (C) at a concert by the Orchestra del Maggio Fiorentino, directed by Indian conductor Zubin Metha, to celebrate the 84th Lateran pact's anniversary on February 4, 2013, at the Sala Nervi in Vatican city. AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO' (Photo credit should read OSSERVATORE ROMANO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • In this photo provided by Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI receives a Lazio soccer team's jersey from club's president Claudio Lotito, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

  • VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

    Pope Benedict XVI (C) leads his weekly general audience on January 30, 2013 at the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO,ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • VATICAN-POPE-ANGELUS-DOVE

    Pope Benedict XVI releases a dove from the window of his appartment at the end of his Sunday Angelus prayer in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on January 27, 2013. The Pontiff and youth of the Catholic Action released two doves, symbol of peace. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • ITALY-VATICAN-RELIGION-POPE

    Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead the celebration of the Vespers of the Solemnity of the conversion of Saint Paul, in conclusion of the week of prayer for christian unity at the Saint Paul basilica in Rome on January 25, 2013. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates Baptisms In Sistine Chapel

    VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JANUARY 13: Pope Benedict XVI (L) performs a baptism in the Sistine Chapel on January 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Vatican reiterated its opposition to same-sex marriage on January 13, after an Italian court ruling it was prejudice to assume a child would have a detrimental upbringing living with a gay couple. (Photo by L'Osservatore Romano-Vatican Pool via Getty Images)

  • VATICAN-POPE-MONACO-PRINCE

    Pope Benedict XVI welcomes Prince Albert II of Monaco and his wife Princess Charlene on January 12, 2013 prior to a private audience at Vatican. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • VATICAN-POPE-MONACO-PRINCE

    Pope Benedict XVI (C) talks to Prince Albert II of Monaco and his wife Princess Charlene on January 12, 2013 during a private audience at Vatican. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Pope Benedict XVI Receives Prince Albert II of Monaco and Princess Charlene

    VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JANUARY 12: Pope Benedict XVI meets HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and HSH Princess Charlene of Monaco during a private audience at his library on January 12, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • Pope Benedict XVI (L) is greeted by Ital

    Pope Benedict XVI (L) is greeted by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and his wife Elsa (both not pictured) as he disembarks from a helicopter in Arezzo stadium on the start of a one day pastoral visit on May 13, 2012. The Pope will lead a Holy Mass and will also visit the Shrine of La Verna and address citizens of Sansepolcro. AFP PHOTO / POOL / VINCENZO PINTO ALTERNATIVE CROP VERSION (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/GettyImages)

  • In this photo provided by the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, right, and Pope Benedict XVI meet during an official visit at the Vatican Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. Premier Mario Monti has met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in their first formal talks since Monti took over as head of a government of experts in November to tackle Italy's debt crisis. The Vatican said the two sides discussed Italian and European issues as well as the need to protect religious minorities in some areas of the world, and confirmed their interest in continuing "constructive cooperation." (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

  • Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, right, and Pope Benedict XVI meet during an official visit at the Vatican Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Max Rossi, Pool)

  • Pope Benedict XVI (R) is greeted by Ital

    Pope Benedict XVI (R) is greeted by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and his wife Elsa (L) as he disembarks from a helicopter in Arezzo stadium on the start of a one day pastoral visit on May 13, 2012. The Pope will lead a Holy Mass and will also visit the Shrine of La Verna and address citizens of Sansepolcro. AFP PHOTO / POOL / VINCENZO PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Pope Benedict XVI meets Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti

    VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JANUARY 14: Pope Benedict XVI exchanges gifts with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti during a meeting at his private library on January 14, 2012 in Vatican City, Vatican. This is the first time the Pope has received the new Italian President. (Photo by Stefano Dal Pozzolo - Vatican Pool via Getty Images)

  • Pope Benedict XVI and German Chancellor

    Pope Benedict XVI and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose for a picture after an oecumenical service at the protestant monastery of St. Augustin in Erfurt, eastern Germany, on September 23, 2011, on the second day of the Pontiff's first state visit to his native Germany. The 84-year old pope, German born Joseph Ratzinger, has a packed program, with 18 sermons and speeches planned for his four-day trip to Berlin, Erfurt in the ex-German Democratic Republic and Freiburg. AFP PHOTO / POOL BUNDESREGIERUNG GUIDO BERGMANN (Photo credit should read GUIDO BERGMANN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Benedict XVI , Angela Merkel, Joachim Sauer

    Benedict XVI speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, and her husband Joachim Sauer, left, in the house of the German Bishops Conference in Berlin, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011. Pope Benedict XVI is on a four-day official visit to his homeland Germany. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, pool)

  • ALTERNATIVE CROP - German Chancellor Ang

    ALTERNATIVE CROP - German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) looks on as Pope Benedict XVI has his robe blown in the face by the wind after arriving on September 22, 2011 at the Tegel airport in Berlin, where he starts his first state visit to his native Germany. The 84-year old pope, German born Joseph Ratzinger, has a packed program, with 18 sermons and speeches planned for his four-day trip to Berlin, Erfurt in the ex-German Democratic Republic and Freiburg. AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Silvio Berlusconi Pope Benedict XVI

    FILE - In this Friday, June 6, 2008 file photo, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi shows one of the gifts he received from Pope Benedict XVI, a pen commemorating St. Peter, on the occasion of their meeting at the Vatican City. Premier Silvio Berlusconi resigned in Rome, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, after the Parliament's lower chamber passed European-demanded reforms, ending a 17-year political era and setting in motion a transition aimed at bringing Italy back from the brink of economic crisis. The 75-year-old billionaire media mogul, who came to power for the first time in 1994 using a soccer chant "Go Italy" as the name of his political party, became Italy's longest-serving post-war premier.(AP Photo/Alessandro Bianchi, pool, file)

  • The Pope Meets With President Obama

    VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JULY 10: US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with Pope Benedict XVI in his library at the Vatican on July 10, 2009 in Vatican City, Vatican. Obama was meeting with The Pope for the first time as President following the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • The Pope Meets With President Obama

    VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JULY 10: US President Barack Obama (L) and First Lady Michelle Obama exchange gifts with Pope Benedict XVI in his library at the Vatican on July 10, 2009 in Vatican City, Vatican. Obama was meeting with The Pope for the first time as President following the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • The Pope Meets With President Obama

    VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JULY 10: US President Barack Obama (R) meets with Pope Benedict XVI in his library at the Vatican on July 10, 2009 in Vatican City, Vatican. Obama was meeting with The Pope for the first time as President following the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

  • British Prime Minister David Cameron (L)

    British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) bids farewell to Pope Benedict XVI at Birmingham International Airport, England, on September 19, 2010, after a four day visit to Britain by the Pope. Pope Benedict XVI flew out of Britain Sunday after an historic four-day state visit, as Prime Minister David Cameron said he had made people 'sit up and think.' AFP PHOTO/CARL COURT (Photo credit should read Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

  • His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI Pays A State Visit To The UK - Day 4

    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Pope Benedict XVI is escorted by PM David Cameron as heads to board his Alitalia jet to Italy on September 19, 2010 in Birmingham, England. Pope Benedict XVI has conducted the first state visit to the UK by a Pontiff. Earlier in the day he beatified Cardinal Newman at an open air mass in Cofton Park. (Photo by Carl Court - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

  • Pope Benedict XVI (R) meets with British

    Pope Benedict XVI (R) meets with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Archbishop's House, in central London, on September 18, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI is 'very calm' and 'no one felt threatened' despite the arrest of six men linked to an alleged plot to launch an attack during his visit to Britain, a Vatican spokesman said Saturday. AFP PHOTO/Stefan Rousseau/POOL (Photo credit should read STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Pope Benedict XVI strokesa lion cub as he greets circus artists and workers, during an audience he held in the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. Benedict clapped and watched amused as circus workers flipped, flopped, juggled and twisted before him in what the Vatican has called a historic audience to make street performers and other itinerant entertainers feel like they belong to the church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • Pope Benedict XVI strokes a lion cub as he greets circus artists and workers during an audience he held in the Pope Paul VI hall, at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. Benedict clapped and watched amused as circus workers flipped, flopped, juggled and twisted before him in what the Vatican has called a historic audience to make street performers and other itinerant entertainers feel like they belong to the church. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates The Vespers And Te Deum Prayers To Mark The End of 2012

    Pope Benedict XVI is helped by assistants as he celebrates the Vespers and Te Deum prayers in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on December 31, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Pope Benedict XVI Celebrates The Vespers And Te Deum Prayers To Mark The End of 2012

    Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Vespers and Te Deum prayers in Saint Peter's Basilica the mark the end of 2012 at the Vatican on December 31, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • VATICAN-POPE-TAIZE-MEETING

    Pope Benedict XVI blesses as arrives for the prayer with the ecumenical christian community of Taize during their European meeting, on December 29, 2012, in St.Peter's square at the Vatican. The Taize community, based in the eastern French village of Taize, was created in 1940 by Brother Roger, from Switzerland. The group draws tens of thousands of young people for prayer workshops held across the year at its base, and similar numbers at its annual gathering in a European city, traditionally held between Christmas and the New Year's eve. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FILE - In this June 28, 2011 file photo, Pope Benedict XVI touches a touchpad to send a tweet for the launch of the Vatican news information portal "www.news.va", at the Vatican. The Vatican said Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, that Pope Benedict XVI will start tweeting in six languages from his own personal handle (at)Pontifex, on Dec. 12. The pontiff will be using a question and answer format in his first Tweet, focusing on answering questions about faith — in 140 characters. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano, File) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

  • Bechara el-Rai

    FILE - In this Tuesday, March 15, 2011 file photo, the newly elected Maronite Patriarch Bechara el-Rai gestures as he is surrounded by supporters shortly after his election at the Maronite church's seat in Bkirki, northeast of Beirut, Lebanon. Pope Benedict XVI has named six new cardinals Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, adding prelates from Lebanon, the Philippines, Nigeria, Colombia, India and the United States to the ranks of cardinals who will elect his successor. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

  • Benedict XVI

    Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful as he arrives in St. Peter's square to bless the nativity scene at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. The Pontiff marked the end of 2011 with prayers of thanks and said humanity awaits the new year with apprehension but also with hope for a better future. "Another year approaches its end, while we await a new one, with the trepidation, desires and expectations of always," Benedict said at the traditional New Year's Eve vespers service, as he delivered his homily from the central altar of St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday evening. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)

  • Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing as he arrives for the weekly general audience in the Pope Paul II hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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AP reports:

REGENSBURG, Germany — Pope Benedict XVI is planning to stay out of the public eye following his retirement at the end of the month but may stand ready to advise his successor if asked, his brother said Tuesday after talking with the pontiff.

Speaking to reporters at his home in the southern German city of Regensburg, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who was ordained on the same day in 1951 as his brother Joseph, said he didn't expect Benedict's continued presence in the Vatican to intimidate the next pope.

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Keith Thomson writes in a blog post:

Much is at stake with the selection of Pope Benedict XVI's successor, including a lot of money. Paddy Power, Europe's largest bookmaker, has already taken more than £100,000 in bets, and expects to see multi-million-pound action closer to next month's conclave at the Sistine Chapel.

While Las Vegas casinos refuse to accept such bets for reasons of "taste," Paddy Power is one of several major international bookmakers currently offering papal markets, not only on who will be the next pope, but what papal name he'll choose, his country of origin, and the length of the papal conclave, among others.

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A group of topless activists scandalized visitors at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral on Tuesday by disrobing in public to celebrate Pope Benedict XVI's resignation.

The small group of women, all affiliated with radical feminist group FEMEN, flashed their breasts and banged on bells in the cathedral, shouting slogans such as, "Bye Bye Benedict" and "No more homophobe," according to the Agence France-Presse.

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HuffPost's Lila Shapiro reports:

Jeannine Gramick, a Roman Catholic nun and co-founder of a U.S. ministry for gay and lesbian Catholics, met Pope Benedict XVI only once, by chance, on a plane flying from Baltimore to Rome in the late-'90s. Because of her work with the lesbian and gay community, Gramick had by then been under investigation by the Vatican for more than two decades.

The encounter was serendipitous, Gramick recalled Monday after hearing news of Benedict's resignation. Gramick and leaders at her ministry had been worried that she would be excommunicated. She was traveling with the head of her order to Munich, via Rome, to pray that she would keep her place in the church. When she boarded the plane, she saw Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became pope, sitting with two empty seats beside him. She mustered her courage and sat next to him. "When he found out who I was, he just smiled and said 'Oh, I've known about you for 20 years,'" she said.

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vatican nuns pray

Nuns pray inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. With a few words in Latin, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope has done in more than half a millennium, stunning the world by announcing his resignation Monday and leaving the already troubled Catholic Church to replace the leader of its 1 billion followers by Easter. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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Reuters reports:

VATICAN CITY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Cardinals around the world began informal contacts to discuss who should next lead the Church through a period of major crisis and the Vatican said it planned a big send-off for Pope Benedict before he becomes the first pontiff in centuries to resign.

At a Tuesday news conference on how the pope plans to spend the next two weeks before he steps out of the limelight, the Vatican also disclosed that the 85-year-old Benedict has been wearing a pacemaker since before he was elected pope in 2005.

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Yesterday morning the Church and the world learned that Pope Benedict XVI, following an extended period of prayer and reflection, discerned that he would resign the papacy at the end of this month. This news certainly came as a great surprise to all of us. It would be reasonable to consider that the Holy Father's advancing age and the responsibilities of being the leader for more than one billion Catholics, including the demands of extensive international travel, played a central role in his decision. We join the universal Church in offering prayerful gratitude for the Holy Father's faith, courage and his leadership as the successor of Peter.

At this time it is appropriate for the Church and all people of good faith to reflect on Pope Benedict's legacy and achievements. He brought unique capabilities to the papacy as a highly qualified scholar and teacher, and as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in service to Blessed John Paul II. His fidelity to maintaining the truth and clarity of the Catholic faith, to cultivating ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and in reaching out to inspire the next generation of Catholics have been great gifts to us all.

During the course of the past eight years Pope Benedict embraced the papacy with the heart of a kind and caring shepherd, always holding the spiritual and pastoral care of the people of God to be the highest priority. The Holy Father also generously used his superior intellectual gifts, well established through his reputation as a renowned scholar, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church with people from all walks of life throughout the world. He guided the Church through unprecedented challenges, always finding strength in Jesus' promise to be with us always, and led a world-wide renewal of evangelization that will influence the Catholicism for generations to come.

The Archdiocese of Boston in particular has been greatly blessed by Pope Benedict's care and concern.In all of my conversations with him he has always asked me to assure this local Church of his prayers and encouragement. I will always hold the Holy Father's 2008 meeting with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and our presentation of the Book of Names of living and deceased survivors, as one of the most powerful experiences of my life and priesthood.

His overwhelming sorrow that such heinous crimes were perpetrated on the survivors and his heartfelt expression of love and concern were deeply moving, as was his absolute commitment that the abuse never be repeated and that the Church maintain her vigilance to do everything possible to insure the safety of children.

While there will be much speculation in the days and weeks ahead regarding who will follow the Holy Father to the Chair of Peter, at this moment we are called to reflect on Pope Benedict's leadership; offering prayers of gratitude for this servant of Christ who so dearly loves all of God's people. At this extraordinary moment in the life of the Church, we pray for the wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit and the strength given by our Lord, who, assures us that he will be with us always.

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Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship, releases a statement:

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Rabbi Burton Visotzky, director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Jewish Theological Seminary, discusses the positive state of Jewish-Catholic relations under Pope Benedict XVI's leadership and his hopes for the future.

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mater ecclesiae monastery

A view of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, right, next to the Tower of San Giovanni, inside the Vatican State where Pope Benedict XVI is expected to live after he resigns, on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. For months, construction crews have been renovating a four-story building attached to a monastery on the northern edge of the Vatican gardens where nuns would live for a few years at a time in cloister. Only a handful of Vatican officials knew it would one day be Pope Benedict XVI'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 dump truck as the restoration deadline became ever more critical following Benedict's stunning announcement that he would resign Feb. 28 and live his remaining days in prayer. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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femen protest

Activists of the Women's Movement FEMEN, protest against the Pope Benedict XVI who announced his resignation yesterday, in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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Andreas Widmer writes in a blog post:

The Vatican moves very slowly -- they measure time in centuries, not years. Thus the news from Pope Benedict of his impending resignation during the last stretch of his seventh year as pope struck the public like lightning.

"Shocking! Unbelievable!" was the sentiment that came to mind when I (and I presume you) first learned of Pope Benedict's abdication.

This reaction is a natural initial response -- but there's a lot more to the story. The mainstream discussion about Benedict's decision is a regrettable oversimplification. We don't do justice to this important announcement declaring the pontificate a failure and proceeding to a guessing game of "who's the next pope."

Before we move on, we need to stop and reflect on what just happened -- not just in the past seven years, but the last 70 years. Upon closer examination of the facts, observers will see that this was a strategic decision, and not one done in a moment of weakness or despair.

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Agence France Presse reports:

French President Francois Hollande had his knuckles rapped for it but most of Europe felt free Tuesday to start cracking jokes about Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, sometimes with a sharp anti-clerical edge.

The paedophilia scandal that has engulfed the Roman Catholic church in recent years ensured many of the quips flooding the Twittersphere and some of the cartoons published online and in newspapers across the continent had a dark theme.

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st peters square

Media gather in front of St. Peter's Basilica, at The Vatican, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. With a few words in Latin, Pope Benedict XVI did what no pope has done in more than half a millennium, stunning the world by announcing his resignation Monday and leaving the already troubled Catholic Church to replace the leader of its 1 billion followers by Easter. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

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Kim Daniels, director of Catholic Voices USA writes:

Catholics mark our year with feasts and fasts, times of repentance and times of rejoicing. Our calendar sets the rhythm of Catholic life. Given that, it's no accident that Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, patron saint of the sick.

Those focusing on papal politics miss the real story. With his resignation Pope Benedict -- arguably one of the most powerful people in the world -- has chosen to give up that temporal power to align himself with the sick, the weak, the frail. In doing so he's affirming the central Christian truth that "when I am weak, then I am strong."

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AP reports:

MEXICO CITY -- Latin America is home to the world's largest Roman Catholic population, but hopes that the next pope will come from the region appear faint, experts said Monday.

The predominance of Europeans on the College of Cardinals means that the odds are stacked against a Latin American pope, even though the names of a number of high-ranking churchmen from the region have been bandied about, analysts said. The 118-member college, with 62 European members and only 19 from Latin America, will elect a successor for Pope Benedict XVI, who announced Monday he will resign due to age.

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David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, writes in a blog post:

As the Pope himself admits, he had his flaws and he made mistakes, but he was and is undoubtedly a holy man. He should be remembered above all for that.

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Sheikh Mustafa Ceric, the former grand mufti of Bosnia, releases a statement on behalf A Common Word Initiative and the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute:

The news today about H.H. Pope Benedict XVI's resignation at the end of this month (February 2013) after nearly eight years as the successor of St. Peter and head of the Catholic Church was highly noticed by all the Muslims who had dialogue with him. First as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and then Pope Benedict XVI from 2005 to 2013 after John Paul II's death, he will be remembered as a foremost Catholic theologian and a sincere pastor for the Catholic faithful.

Although initially hurt by his remarks about Islam on September 12, 2006, while lecturing on "Faith, Reason and the University" at the University of Regensburg, Germany, Muslim Scholars appreciated his apology afterwards and his subsequent friendly visits to Islamic countries and mosques, particularly the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

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Religion News Service reports:

Pope Benedict XVI came into office with the reputation of a conservative hard-liner, a vigorous defender of orthodoxy who wanted to restore Tradition -- yes, with a capital "T"_ to a church that was seen as disturbingly undisciplined.

Yet with the stunning announcement that he is resigning as the 264th successor to Saint Peter, Benedict may wind up fundamentally changing the way the church and the world view the papacy.

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Timothy Cardinal Dolan writes in the New York Daily News:

Sede vacante: It’s a Latin phrase, and it means, “the chair is empty.”

On Monday, the 264th successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, announced that, at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, the Chair of St. Peter would be empty.

For the first time in six centuries, a Pope is resigning.

We Catholics cherish symbols. A chair is a symbol, a sign, of authority, unity, wisdom.

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Reuters reports:

Father Federico Lombardi [Vatican spokesman] said the batteries on the appliance were replaced three months ago in a minor, routine intervention but that had played no part in persuading the pontiff to take the shock decision to step down.

"It had no influence on the decision, the reasons were in his perception that his strength had diminished with advancing age," Lombardi told a press briefing at the Vatican.

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After the Vatican announced Pope Benedict XVI's decision to abdicate as the head of the Catholic Church on Monday, front-page headlines across the world grew a few type sizes. The decision was surprising both for the faithful and for the guides and tour operators of Rome, a deeply tourist-dependent city where the Vatican is arguably the star attraction.

Local tour operators said yesterday that they plan to continue tours as usual, until either massive crowds, which descended during the last papal conclave, or the Vatican's dictates make doing so impossible.

For the rest of the story click here.

-- Andrew Burmon

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HuffPost Italy reports:

Less than three months ago, Pope Benedict XVI had heart surgery in the clinic Pius XI in Rome for the replacement of a pacemaker, "in absolute secrecy." This was reported on the front page of ‘Il Sole 24 Ore’in an article by the newspaper editor, Roberto Napoletano.

"The surgery went well," Napoletano said. "The Pope recovered regularly, he never missed an appointment with the Sunday Angelus, showed his usual serenity and good endurance. He was operated by Louis Chiariello, a heart surgeon who studied in the US and director of The University of Rome Tor Vergata. Chiariello has been treating the pulse and heart rates of the Pope for more than 10 years, since when he placed his first pacemaker."

Dr Chiariello “didn’t wanted to confirm the news,” writes Napoletano.“He entrenched behind a barrier of silence.” According to Il sole 24 Ore, before and after the surgery the Pope did not appear either troubled or extremely tired. He didn’t want to miss the appointment with the believers even on the Sunday immediately after the operation and “smiled on the hidden forces of his heart.”

“People close to him, by the way, saw him simply and firmly questioning about his ability to drive – in full force – the boat of St Peter and to proclaim the Gospel with the same courage and the same commitment demonstrated in recent years."

-- Giulia Belardelli

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Over at Business Insider, Michael Brendan Dougherty weighs the odds, and assesses pros and cons of each possible candidate for the papacy.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet

Country: Canada

Position: Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, formerly Archbishop of Quebec.

Age: 68

Likelihood: Paddy Power ranks him 5/2. He has done missionary work in South America. Last year we said that our money was on Ouellet. His rank among the betters has shot up dramatically.

What His Election Would Mean: It's a global Church now. His work in helping to vet and select bishops would give him the ability as pope to dramatically shape the Church for a generation or more.

Reasons He'll Get Elected: Most qualified. He speaks English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and German fluently. He has done missionary work in South America.

Reasons He Might Not Get Elected: He might decline. (You can decline your election) He has given every indication that papacy is a "crushing responsibility" that he would hesitate to take. Then again, that is exactly what makes him an attractive candidate.

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The Sydney Morning Herald's Ruth Pollard reports:

He is viewed as the Pope who helped improve relations between the Vatican and Israel, while also providing open support for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

As the news of Pope Benedict's retirement spread, Palestinian Catholics expressed their shock at his decision and their fears that it may reduce the authority of the church and the next Pope.

“We want the representative of the Holy See to be supportive of the marginalised, of the downtrodden and in this case, the Palestinians who are living under a brutal Israeli occupation,” said Zoughbi Zoughbi, the director of the Wi'am Palestinian Centre for Conflict Resolution.

“Anyone who comes into this position [of pope] has the responsibility of correcting injustices in all four corners of the world,” Mr Zoughbi said as he sat with friends in a café in Bethlehem.

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Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, released the following statement on the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI:

It was with a heavy heart but complete understanding that we learned this morning of Pope Benedict’s declaration of his decision to lay down the burden of ministry as Bishop of Rome, an office which he has held with great dignity, insight and courage. As I prepare to take up office I speak not only for myself, and my predecessors as Archbishop, but for Anglicans around the world, in giving thanks to God for a priestly life utterly dedicated, in word and deed, in prayer and in costly service, to following Christ. He has laid before us something of the meaning of the Petrine ministry of building up the people of God to full maturity.

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@ nwarikoo : Imam Qazwini, who heads the biggest mosque in Michigan, met with Pope Benedict XVI twice. He said: "I have so much admiration for the Pope."

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His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew released the following statement on Pope Benedict's abdication:

It is with regret that we have learned of the decision by His Holiness Pope Benedict to retire from his Throne, because with his wisdom and experience he could have provided much more to the Church and the world.

Pope Benedict leaves an indelible mark on the life and history of the Roman Catholic Church, sealed not only by his brief papacy, but also by his broad and longstanding contribution as a theologian and hierarch of his Church, as well as his universally acknowledged prestige.

His writings will long speak of his deep theological understanding, through his knowledge of the Fathers of the undivided Church, his familiarity with contemporary reality, and his keen interest in the problems of humankind.

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h/t @nunblogger

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Rabbi Brad Hirschfield writes at The Washington Post:

Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing his resignation, effective the end of February, and there are many ways to think about the significance of the event, including both the challenges and the opportunities in Catholic-Jewish relations that may come in the decision’s wake.

While some Jewish leaders have been troubled over the years by certain comments and actions by the outgoing pontiff, upon close examination, I think we see that there has been little if anything to be disturbed by, and much for which to be quite pleased. In fact, in his relationship to issues relating to Jews and Judaism, Pope Benedict has been, as he has been in regard to so many other matters, a fascinating figure -- deeply principled and highly intellectual, if sometimes frustrating in his seeming to be less than fully aware of the full emotional and public relations implications of some of his words and deeds.

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From the Associated Press:

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