Benedict’s final official acts as pope will include audiences with the Romanian and Guatemalan presidents this week and the Italian president on Feb. 23. His final general audience is Feb. 27.
To assure 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.
He and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, will have a major role in organizing the conclave, during which the 117 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 live a life of prayer in a converted monastery on the edge of the Vatican gardens.
But his continued presence within the Vatican walls has raised questions about how removed he really will be from the life and governance of the church. Lombardi acknowledged that Benedict would still be able to see 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.
Still, Benedict is expected to keep a low public profile.
As a result, his last appearances as pontiff are expected to draw large crowds for what may well be some of the last speeches by 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.
Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield
Associated Press staffers Trisha Thomas and Daniela Petroff in Vatican City contributed to this report.