Pope Benedict XVI told priests today he will "remain hidden to the world" after he leaves his post as leader of the Roman Catholic Church at the end of this month.
During a meeting Thursday with priests and clergy of the Diocese of Rome at the Vatican, Benedict said although he was retiring to a life of prayer, "I will always be close to all you and I am sure all of you will be close to me, even though I remain hidden to the world," Vatican Radio quoted him as saying.
Benedict shocked the world on Monday when he announced his decision to quit on Feb. 28, making him the first pope in centuries to step down. The 85-year-old Pope said he was no longer physically up to the demands of leading the church.
A successor to Benedict is expected to be chosen 15 to 20 days after he departs.
Benedict's unscripted remarks Thursday could be taken as his way to put to rest any concerns of what having two living popes could do to unity in the church.
The Vatican has already said he will not have any influence on the church after he departs his post. He plans to live in a converted monastery after spending time at the papal summer residence immediately after he leaves the Vatican.
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Also Thursday, the Vatican issued a denial that a cut to the head suffered by Benedict during a 2012 trip to Mexico contributed to his decision to step down.
The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported Benedict hit his head and that it was bleeding after he got up in the night during his stay in Leon, Mexico.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the incident "was not relevant for the trip, in that it didn't affect it" or the Pope's decision to step down.