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Pope celebrates last public Mass as pontiff with Ash Wednesday service


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Making sure the transition goes smoothly, Benedict made an important appointment Wednesday, naming the No. 2 administrator of the Vatican city state, Monsignor Giuseppe Sciacca, as a legal adviser to the camerlengo.

The camerlengo, or chamberlain, helps administer the Vatican bureaucracy in the period between Benedict’s resignation and the election of a new pope. The current camerlengo is Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state.

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He and the dean of the College of Cardinals, his predecessor Cardinal Angelo Sodano, will have a major role in organizing the conclave, during which the 117 or so cardinals under the age of 80 will vote on who should succeed Benedict.

The Vatican has made clear that Benedict will play no role in the election of his successor, and once retired, he will be fully retired. He plans to live a life of prayer in a converted monastery on the far northern edge of the Vatican gardens.

But his continued physical presence within the Vatican walls has raised questions about how removed he really will be from the life of the church. Lombardi acknowledged that Benedict would still be able to see his friends and colleagues.

"I think the successor and also the cardinals will be very happy to have very nearby a person that best of all can understand what the spiritual needs of the church are," Lombardi said.

Benedict is expected, however, to keep a low public profile.

As a result, Benedict’s final public appearances — his last general audience will be Feb. 27 — are expected to draw great crowds, as they may well represent some of the last public speeches for a man who has spent his life — as a priest, a cardinal and a pope — teaching and preaching.

And they will also give the faithful a way to say farewell under happier circumstances than when his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, died in 2005.




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