The outgoing pope, Benedict XVI, says he intends to keep a low profile once he retires at the end of February. He has also hit out at the media for reducing Catholic Church reforms of the 1960s to a "power struggle."
Benedict told a packed audience at the Vatican on Thursday that he would live "hidden" from the spotlight, after he became the first pope in almost 600 years to retire.
"Even if I retire now, I will always remain close to all of you in my prayers, and you will be close to me even if I remain hidden to the world," said the 85-year-old.
The Vatican has hinted that Benedict could work behind-the-scenes as a spiritual guide for the person chosen as his successor. The pope used his audience on Thursday to reflect on reforms by the Catholic Church in the early 1960s, saying they had been "misunderstood," and blamed the media's distorted interpretation of meetings during that time for problems that haunt the Church today.
The Second Vatican Council, from 1962-65, which brought the Church into the modern world, introduced reforms such as replacing Latin with local languages in the celebration of Mass. In 2007, he liberalized the renewed use of the old Latin Mass. Benedict said a "political battle, a power battle" was how the media portrayed divisions between the different strands of the Church during the time of the Council.
It was perhaps one of the last opportunities the Pope had to correct what he considers misinterpretation of the reforms of that time. He said the media's interpretation of the Council fueled popular understanding of it, and was "accessible to all." Benedict said this led to "so many calamaties, so many problems, really so many miseries. Seminaries that closed, convents that closed, the liturgy was banalized."
But he admitted to internal rivalries, which came to the forefront last year during the so-called 'Vatileaks' scandal, after the pope's own butler leaked internal documents that revealed bitter infighting within the Catholic Church, as well as allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Benedict later pardoned the butler, Paolo Gabriele, after he was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Pope injured, private secretary to stay on
The Vatican confirmed on Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI hit his head during a trip to Mexico in March last year, but has denied it had anything to do with his resignation.
Italy's La Stampa newspaper has reported that the pontiff woke up in the middle of the night in a bedroom in Leon, Mexico, hitting his head and causing himself to bleed. Earlier this week, the Vatican also said Benedict had a pacemaker, and underwent a secret operation three months ago to replace its batteries.
It was also announced on Thursday that his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, would remain with Benedict after he retires, while serving the new pope.
"[Gaenswein] will remain prefect of the papal household and will also be secretary to Benedict," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi at a press briefing.
jr/kms (AP, dpa, AFP)