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Keeping to his schedule on Saturday, Pope Benedict received caretaker Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in a farewell audience. ...
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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Keeping to his schedule on Saturday, Pope Benedict received caretaker Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in a farewell audience. Monti, a devout Catholic, is leading a centrist coalition in next week's elections but the Vatican says the farewell meeting has nothing to do with the vote. The 85-year-old Benedict was having as normal a Saturday as possible, considering that his remaining scheduled public appearances can now be counted on one hand. On Sunday, the pope will hold his customary noon blessing from his window overlooking St Peter's Square before going into a previously scheduled, week-long Lenten spiritual retreat. He will then say one more Sunday noon prayer on February 24 and hold a final general audience on February 27. The next day he will take a helicopter to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, flying into the history books. Vatican officials have said he will stay there for the two months or so needed to restore the convent inside the Vatican, where he will live out his remaining years.