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[Published: Friday February 15 2013]

Pope Benedict hints of retirement  into seclusion

The Vatican, 15 Feb - (ANA) -  The outgoing head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has hinted he will withdraw into seclusion after stepping down at the end of this month. "Even if I am withdrawing into prayer, I will always be close to all of you... even if I remain hidden to the world," he told a meeting of Roman priests. The pontiff, 85, shocked the world's biggest Christian Church on Monday when he announced his resignation. He cited his advanced age as the reason for resigning. According to the Vatican's semi-official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, the Pope took the decision to resign after his trip to Mexico and Cuba in 2012. The Vatican confirmed on Thursday that Pope Benedict had hit his head during the March trip to Mexico, but denied the accident had any role in his decision. According to a report in Italy's La Stampa newspaper, the Pope was lightly injured after getting up in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar bedroom during the trip, with blood staining his hair and sheets. Earlier this week, the Vatican said for the first time that Pope Benedict had a pacemaker, and that he had undergone surgery to replace the batteries three months ago. The Pope appears to be planning a complete retreat from the public eye, according to reports from the Vatican. However, he is expected to spend his retirement in a monastery at the Vatican and his relationship with his successor as pope is bound to be an endless source of speculation, our correspondent adds. A new pope is expected to be elected by cardinals before Easter, which falls on 31 March this year. Next week the Pope will carry out no public engagements after which he will hold one more public audience on 27 February, in St Peter's Square. On 28 February he will fly off to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, where he will stay while Church leaders go through the complicated ritual of choosing a successor. (ANA)
FA/ANA/15 February 2013------------

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