As Conclave Preparations Get Underway, Pope Relaxes on First Day of Retirement

While the halls of the Vatican buzzed with activity in preparation for the Conclave which will elect the next pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI spent his first day of retirement reading, listening to music and praying.

According to Pope Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Papal Household, when the Holy Father arrived at Castel Gandolfo last evening to begin his retirement, he was described as being “very calm and serene”. After watching several news programs, he took a brief walk through the Apostolic Palace and then went to bed where he slept very well.

This morning, he celebrated Mass at 7:00am and then prayed the Liturgy of the Hours. In the afternoon he has another walk planned at 4:00pm, through the gardens of the Palace when he will pray the rosary.

He will also spend some time reading. He brought with him various books on theology, history, and spirituality and is currently reading from a book by the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthazar.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, has begun to summon the cardinals to the first of the General Congregations, as provided for by the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis”.

In a letter sent to each Cardinal, Sodano writes: “As prescribed in the Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis”  . . . I have the duty to officially communicate to Your Eminence the news of the vacancy of the Apostolic See from the renunciation presented by Pope Benedict XVI effective from yesterday evening, 28 February, at 8:00pm in Rome.

“On communicating this to you I fulfil my duty of summoning Your Eminence to the first of the General Congregations of the College of Cardinals, to be held on Monday, 4 March, at 9:30am in the Synod of Bishops Room in the Paul VI Hall.

“The General Congregations will then continue normally until the complete number of Cardinal electors is gathered and the College of Cardinals decides the date for those Cardinal electors to enter into Conclave on the basis of what the recent Motu Proprio of 22 February established regarding modifications in the norms relating to the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

There are 207 cardinals in the College. Of that number, 117 are eligible to vote in the election of the next Pope with 90 Cardinal exempted due to being over the age of 80.

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