Vatican City, 12 February 2013 (VIS) – Wednesday, 13 February at 5:00pm, the Holy Father will celebrate the rite of blessing and imposition of ashes in the Vatican Basilica, instead of the Roman Basilica of Santa Sabina, where the celebration is traditionally held. The reason, as Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, explained, is that, as this will be Benedict XVI's last public concelebration, a large number of participants is expected.
For the same reason, the Pope's annual meeting with the pastors of Rome, scheduled to take place on 14 February, will take place in the Paul VI Hall and will focus on―according to Fr. Lombardi's information―Vatican Council II, as the Roman clergy requested. Also, in expectation of great numbers, Benedict XVI's last general audience, scheduled for 27 February in the Paul VI Hall, will probably be moved to St. Peter's Square.
"The Pope is well," Fr. Lombardi said, "and his soul is serene. He did not resign the pontificate because he is ill but because of the fragility that comes with old age," he affirmed, recalling that the pontiff, recently underwent an entirely routine procedure to replace the battery of the pacemaker he wears, but that this had no impact on his decision. Likewise, Fr. Lombardi explained, the trip to Cuba and Mexico, due to his fatigue, was another reason in the development of Benedict XVI's decision, but not its cause.
The director of the Press Office confirmed that the Pope's calendar will continue as scheduled until 28 February, the last day of his pontificate, with ad limina visits from the Italian bishops, visits with the presidents of Romania and Guatemala, etc. However, the expected encyclical on Faith will not be published because the text still is not ready.