Pope Benedict suggests he'll "remain hidden to the world" after he steps down.

Pope Benedict Says He'll "Remain Hidden to the World" After Retirement

Pope Benedict Says He'll "Remain Hidden to the World" After Retirement

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The Slatest
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Feb. 14 2013 11:03 AM

Don't Expect To See Much of Pope Benedict Once He's No Longer Pope  

Pope Benedict XVI attends a meeting with parish priests of Rome's diocese at the Paul VI Hall on February 14, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican

Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Given there hasn't been an ex-pope walking around on earth for nearly six centuries, plenty of people have been wondering what, exactly, Pope Benedict will do starting next month when he's no longer pope. His answer to that question, offered today in what were his first public comments since his surprise announcement, suggests that he will cease being a public figure the moment his resignation is official. Here's Reuters with the details:

Speaking unscripted to thousands of priests from the diocese of Rome, in what turned out to be a farewell address in his capacity as bishop of the Italian capital, Benedict outlined a cloistered life ahead, once he steps down in two weeks time: "Even if I am withdrawing into prayer, I will always be close to all of you and I am sure that you will be close to me, even if I remain hidden to the world," he said.

We already knew that, upon retirement, Benedict will first go to a papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo before returning to the Vatican, where he's expected to spend his remaining days. Still, his comments today will probably allay whatever fears there were within the church that he might look to remain a public figure of sorts, something that could have harmed church unity. As it is, the Vatican has already said Benedict will play no role in choosing his successor.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.