Amid the buzz created by the Pope’s announcement that he will retire, it could be easy to miss the fact that his last public Mass will be on Ash Wednesday and not in the normal location for the first day of Lent, reports the Catholic News Agency.
“It’s very clear that St Peter’s is a much bigger church than Santa Sabina in Aventino, so for a celebration in which we expect there will be a lot of faithful, bishops and cardinals who wish to be present to pray together with the Pope, St Peter’s Basilica was chosen spontaneously,” Father Federico Lombardi told CNA yesterday.
“It’s a natural motive of space and it’s also necessary to bear in mind that this will probably be the last big liturgical celebration, the last Mass, presided over by the Pope with the cardinals.
“So it’s normal that it occurs in his church, in St. Peter’s Basilica,” the Vatican spokesman said.
NCR Online reports that the resignation leads to a complicated period of transition that ends in the election of a new pope.
Regulated by ancient traditions and recent rules, the period between popes - known by the Latin term "interregnum" - will begin exactly at 8pm Rome time on February 28.
The apostolic constitution "Universi Dominici Gregis" confirms that as long as the Holy See is vacant, the universal church is governed by the College of Cardinals, which cannot, however, make decisions normally reserved to the pope. Such matters must be postponed until the new pope is elected.
Until there is a pope, the Roman Curia loses most of its cardinal supervisors and cannot handle any new business.
The Catholic News Service reports that the Pope will live in a monastery after he resigns. The Vatican monastery where Pope Benedict XVI intends to live began its life as the Vatican gardener's house, but was established as a cloistered convent by Blessed John Paul II in 1994.
Pope's last Mass will be on Ash Wednesday in St Peter's (CNA)
Resignation will set in motion period of transition (NCR)
Pope to live in a monastery (CNS)