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Former Pope Benedict XVI to Return to the Vatican on Thursday

By: for Religion News Services on May 3, 2013
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Jozeph Ratzinger ex-Pope Benedict XVI.
VATICAN CITY (RNS) More than two months after his resignation, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican on Thursday (May 2) to live in a small retrofitted convent.

Benedict’s return will present the Vatican with the unprecedented situation of a reigning pope and a retired pope living a short distance from each other.

The potential difficulty is compounded by the fact that Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, will move in with the former pope while he continues to serve as the prefect of the papal household, charged with managing the schedule for Pope Francis.

Benedict’s second secretary, the Rev. Alfred Xuereb, a Maltese priest, has also been serving as a personal aide to the Argentine pontiff since his election.

The two popes have already met and prayed together when Francis visited Benedict at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. They also have often spoken on the phone, according to the Vatican.

Ahead of his resignation, Benedict, now 86, said he would “withdraw into prayer” and live his final years “hidden from the world.”

But observers fear that the staunchly conservative former pope could become a lightning rod for those who might oppose Francis’ announced reforms, especially if he ever deviated from Benedict’s precedents.

Francis set up a group of eight cardinals from around the world to advise him on the running of the church and on how to rein in the scandal-plagued Roman Curia, the church’s central bureaucracy.

The creation of the group has sparked expectations of wide-ranging reforms among Catholics.

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