In uncharted retirement, ex-Pope Benedict to live on at heart of Vatican

February 12, 2013

(The monastery from where Pope Benedict XVI will retire from March 2013 is seen at the Vatican in this picture taken in January 2011.  REUTERS/Mark Kortum )

Pope Benedict may be retreating into a life of prayer but the first retired pontiff since the Middle Ages will, physically at least, remain at the very heart of the Vatican.

The convent of Mater Ecclesiae – Mother of the Church – is being renovated and following Benedict’s shock resignation will offer him a substantial, four-storey, modern home, complete with contemporary chapel, garden and a roof terrace looking out from a rise dominated by the Holy See’s TV transmission tower.

The 20-year-old, gated compound could hardly be more central to the 100-acre Vatican City, the microstate inside central Rome where Benedict will remain head of state until February 28; it lies barely 200 meters to the rear of St. Peter’s Basilica, where his successor may be consecrated next month, in time for Easter.

With even close aides confessing to surprise at the 85-year-old German’s decision to become the first pope in over 700 years to step down from leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, living as an ex-pope is uncharted territory – though cardinals insist there is no risk of Benedict meddling or undermining the infallible power accorded his successor, no risk of schism.

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