Italian magazine snaps first pics of retired Pope Benedict

ROME (AFP) - Italian gossip magazine Chi on Wednesday published paparazzi pictures of retired "pope emeritus" Benedict XVI as he strolled in the grounds of the papal summer palace of Castel Gandolfo near Rome.

In the first glimpse of the 85-year old since he retired last week, Benedict is seen wearing what appears to be a white baseball cap and a white jacket over his cassock, walking with the aid of a black cane, accompanied by his faithful secretary Georg Gaenswein.

Snapped from behind trees and bushes within the grounds of the vast villa, a second photograph shows Benedict being joined on his walk by a group of women identified by the magazine as the housekeepers who ran his household while he was pope, and have accompanied him into retirement.

Benedict is wearing dark shoes, having had to give up his famous red papal ones.

The ex-pontiff, whose expression is hidden, appears to be deep in conversation with Mr Gaenswein who will continue to live with Benedict but also serve the new pope as prefect of the papal household.

The Vatican has said Benedict will be allowed to continue wearing his papal white cassock but without the short cape that popes also wear.

His official title is now "pope emeritus" but he is still to be addressed as "Your Holiness".

The gossip magazine, owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was also the first to publish photos of Prince William's pregnant wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, in her bikini, despite protests from Britain's royal family.