Vatican City, 13 February 2013 (VIS) – Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, presented the Holy Father's activities up to 28 February.
Tomorrow, as announced in Tuesday's briefing, Benedict XVI will meet with the Roman pastors in the Paul VI Hall. On the 15th he will receive, respectively, the "Pro Petri Sede" association and the president of Romania. On the 16th he will meet with the president of Guatemala. On those same days he will meet with the Italian bishops from Liguria and Lombardy on their 'ad limina' visits. However, the audience with the president of Cameroon, which was scheduled for 28 February, has been cancelled as well as the 'ad limina' visits scheduled with the Italian prelates from the Le Marche region between 25 and 28 February. On Saturday the 16th at 6:00pm, the Pope will meet with the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, and the following Saturday, the 23rd in the late morning, with the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano. "Both," Fr. Lombardi clarified, "have expressed the desire to meet briefly with the Pope."
From the 17th, after the Angelus, until the morning of the 23th, the Holy Father and the Roman Curia have the Lenten Spiritual Exercises, which will be led this year by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. As is traditional, for the Wednesday of that week there will be no general audience and no activity with the Pope is planned. On the 24th, he will pray the Angelus with the faithful who are gathered in St. Peter's Square.
On the 25th, the Holy Father will receive some of the cardinals in a private audience. On the 27th, the general audience will take place in St. Peter's Square. On the 28th, the last day of his pontificate, Benedict XVI will meet with members of the College of Cardinals in the Clementine Hall and at 5:00pm he will travel by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo.
The period of Sede vacante begins on 1 March. All the visits and activities that call for the Pope's presence during that time are therefore cancelled.
Finally, the director of the Holy See Press Office recalled that when the period of Sede vacante begins, the congregations of cardinals to prepare for the conclave also begin. The congregations have a number of juridical requirements to meet along with serving to exchange viewpoints regarding the problems to be addressed, the situation of the Church, etc., so that each of the members of the College of Cardinals might develop his criteria regarding the election of the new Pope. For this reason, the regulations provide that the beginning of the conclave be established between 15 and 20 days from the beginning of the Sede vacante. "If everything goes normally, it could be envisioned," Fr. Lombardi said, "that the conclave begins between 15 and 19 March. At the moment, we cannot give an exact date because it falls to the cardinals to determine it."