In retirement, Benedict XVI follows a daily schedule similar to that of any retired bishop or religious: He prays, reads, strolls, talks with people and offers them spiritual advice, the Vatican spokesman has said.
Although he “lives in a low-key way, without public attention, that
does not mean he’s isolated or enclosed in a strict cloister,” Jesuit
Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio.
Marking the one-year anniversary of Benedict XVI’s resignation
announcement, Father Lombardi and Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the former
Pope’s personal secretary, spoke about the very normal daily life of a
man who is in the unusual position of being a retired pontiff.
Archbishop Ganswein, who continues as Benedict’s personal secretary
while also serving Pope Francis as prefect of the papal household,
summarised the retired Pope’s day as filled “with prayer most of all,
with study, with personal correspondence and visits.”
“The day begins with Mass, then with the breviary, followed by
breakfast,” he told Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic magazine. “The
morning usually is dedicated to prayer and study, to the mail and to
Archbishop Ganswein and the consecrated laywomen who assist the
retired Pope join him for lunch at 1.30pm, and a nap always follows, he
Benedict XVI spends the afternoon dealing with his correspondence
and listening to music until 4pm, when he and the archbishop recite the
rosary while walking in the garden behind the former Vatican convent
where he lives.
They eat dinner at 7.30pm and watch the evening news at
Archbishop Ganswein said Benedict XVI had told him he was retiring
long before the February 11 announcement, but under the strictest
secrecy. “Instinctively, I said, ‘No, Holy Father, it’s not possible,’
but I realised immediately that he wasn’t communicating something he
wanted to discuss, but a decision already made.”
The archbishop said the “VatiLeaks” scandal, which saw the
publication of confidential papal correspondence and internal Vatican
documents, “did not cause or even influence the resignation.”
“The Pope did not flee a responsibility, but was courageous” enough
to realise he no longer had the strength to carry out the papal
ministry, he said.
Archbishop Ganswein also confirmed that Pope Francis and Benedict
speak frequently on the telephone and have done so since the evening
Francis was elected.
“I was in the Sistine Chapel to greet the new Pope and promise him
obedience,” the archbishop said. “Immediately, Pope Francis asked me
about Benedict XVI and said he wanted to call him. I dialled the number
and handed him the telephone.”
Father Lombardi said the Pope and the retired pontiff have shown the
world that there was nothing to fear with having Benedict XVI live in
the Vatican while a new Pope reigned.
“The fact is that the papacy is a
service and not a power,” he said. Benedict “fulfilled his service
before God and in good conscience passed the witness of this service to
As for Benedict XVI’s daily routine, Father Lombardi said it is that
of “an elderly religious.”
He said the retired pope’s guests come for
conversation, for dialogue and “ask his advice and spiritual support.”