As the Vatican prepares for the opening of the conclave today to elect a new pope, officials announced that the personal secretary of former Pope Benedict XVI will return to Rome for the first time since Benedict’s resignation on Feb. 28.
The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, confirmed on Monday that Gaenswein will be one of the senior Vatican officials to take part in the solemn procession of cardinals into the Sistine Chapel that will open the conclave on Tuesday afternoon.Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, who was Benedict’s closest aide when he was pope, moved with Benedict to the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo when the retired pope left the Vatican on Feb. 28.
His presence will once again highlight the unprecedented situation — and potential complications — of having a retired pope still living just as cardinals gather to elect his successor.
Roman Catholic cardinals on Monday met for the first of a series of closed-door meetings in the run-up to the conclave that will elect the successor to former Pope Benedict XVI.
But as cardinals filed into a Vatican conference room under the gaze of dozens of cameras, church officials said 12 voting prelates still haven’t arrived in Rome, pushing back the possibility of an early start to the conclave.
In his final public address, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday forcefully defended his decision to resign while trying to reassure Catholics still reeling from the shock of his unprecedented move.
For the first time since his stunning announcement on Feb. 11, the 85-year-old pope explained at length his decision to become the first pope in six centuries to resign. His tenure officially ends Thursday at 8 p.m. local time.
Benedict admitted that his resignation is a “grave” and “novel” act but, he added, his choice had been made “with profound serenity.”
“Loving the church means having the courage to make difficult, agonizing choices, having ever before oneself the good of the church and not one’s own,” he said.