Pope begins week-long spiritual retreat out of the public eye
VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI began a week-long spiritual retreat out of the public eye on Monday ahead of his resignation, with the cardinal leading the prayers saying he hoped they would be an "oasis".
The pope will remain in the Vatican with some of his closest aides for the traditional pre-Easter retreat and will only take a short break each day to meet with his secretary Georg Gaenswein to deal with urgent Church matters.
He will be praying together with the Roman Curia - effectively the government of the Catholic Church - in a private chapel in his residence.
The Vatican's culture minister, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi - seen as a possible long-shot candidate for the papacy - has been selected to lead the retreat this year and has written 17 spiritual "meditations" for the week.