Pope, a morally precious example for all Christians and human beings, Fr Lombardi says
Vatican Press Office head calls on the faithful to face the situation with faith and serenity. He also releases Benedict XVI's schedule until 28 February. On that day, the Pontiff will leave the Vatican at 5 pm for Castel Gandolfo.

Vatican (AsiaNews) - The pope spoke in today's general audience to the people of God who might feel disoriented. In view of the situation, he called "on the faithful to face the situation with faith and serenity, certain that the Church belongs to Christ," said Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, during a press conference held after the papal meeting with the faithful.

The latter will be able to see Benedict XVI on other occasions. The Holy Father's schedule is still full of events until 28 February, starting this afternoon with Ash Wednesday Mass. Tonight the secretary of State is also scheduled to speak.

Tomorrow, Thursday 14, there will be the customary audience with the clergy of Rome.

On Friday 15, the pope will meet with the President of Romania; followed by the ad limina visit with Liguria bishops and a visit by the Pro Petri Sede association.

On Saturday 16, the Holy Father will have an audience with the President of Guatemala, then a meeting with the bishops of Lombardy. In the afternoon, he will meet with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in a private audience.

In relation to this, Fr Lombardi said, "Monti has met the pope several times. Since he is still prime minister, the meeting with Benedict XVI is part of his governmental responsibilities, not of the ongoing electoral campaign."

On Sunday 17, there will be the Angelus, followed, like each year, with the start of Lenten spiritual exercises.  No other activities are planned for several days, which "will probably be a particularly intense period of prayer."

On Saturday 23, the Lenten Spiritual Exercises come to an end at 9 am. At 11.30 am, Benedict XVI will meet Italian President Giorgio Napolitano with whom he has had an "intense and moving" personal rapport and "deep appreciation".

On Sunday 24, the pope will hold his last Angelus.

On Monday 25, he will meet some cardinals individually. The audience scheduled for this day with the bishops of Marche has been cancelled.

On Tuesday 26, nothing is scheduled.

On Wednesday 27, the Holy Father will hold his last general audience in St Peter's Square to accommodate an expected larger than usual number of faithful.

On Thursday 28 at 11am, the cardinals will bid the pope farewell as he takes his leave. At 5 pm, he will depart by helicopter for Castel Gandolfo. The period of Sede Vacante begins as of 8 pm.

Between now and then, the pope might appoint the president of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) "because the [selection] process has been underway for quite sometimes without stopping," Fr Lombardi explained. "An appointment has been expected."

Similarly, the nomination of Mgr Giuseppe Sciacca as the General Auditor of the Apostolic Camera is "related to the Sede Vacante". His main task is to "serve as a legal consultant to the Camerlengo [Card Tarcisio Bertone] who exercises legal and administrative power during this period."

"The Church has already seen pontificates change," and indeed, "Canon Law does contemplate the possibility of renunciation," Fr Lombardi noted.

In resigning, "the pope has of course shown a lot of courage in a spirit of faith and love for the Church." His decision "is a morally precious example for all Christians and all human beings" who may also be called to "ask themselves whether they too can adequately perform their duties." (FP)