Pope enjoys swansong; influence still a question
VATICAN CITY (AP) - New questions arose on Thursday about how much influence Pope Benedict XVI will exert over his successor after the Vatican confirmed that Benedict's closest adviser would continue to serve him as a private secretary while running the new pope's household.
For a second day of his emotional farewell tour, Benedict sent a pointed message to his successor and to the cardinals who will elect him about the direction the Catholic Church must take once he is no longer pope. While these remarks have been clearly labelled as Benedict's swansong before retiring, his influence after retirement remains the subject of intense debate.
Benedict's resignation on Feb 28 creates an awkward situation - the first in 600 years - in which the Catholic Church will have both a reigning pope and a retired one. The Vatican has insisted that Benedict will cease to be pope at exactly 8pm on the historic day, devoting himself entirely to a life of prayer.
Benedict confirmed that on Thursday during a farewell audience with a few thousand priests who live and work in the diocese of Rome, saying that he would remain "hidden" to the world in retirement.