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Calendar of Pope Benedict XVI's last days in power

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Pope Benedict XVI will combine public engagements with private prayer in the final days before he steps down as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics at 1900 GMT on February 28.

The 85-year-old will mostly stick to his regular schedule, with a few notable additions and changes -- he has added meetings with Italy's prime minister and president, and his last general audience will be held exceptionally in St Peter's Square instead of at a Vatican auditorium.

Here are the main appointments on his schedule in the days to come, after the first German pope celebrated his last public mass in an emotional ceremony before thousands of clergy and faithful in St Peter's Basilica on Wednesday:

February 14: Meets parish priests from Rome in an event where the Vatican has said he will speak about his personal experience as a reformer during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s before he turned more conservative.

February 15: Holds an audience with Romanian President Traian Basescu.

February 16: Receives Guatemalan President Otto Molina Perez and outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Monti, who is leading a centrist coalition in elections later this month.

February 17: Recites the traditional weekly Angelus prayer from his window in the Apostolic Palace overlooking St Peter's Square before crowds of pilgrims.

February 17-February 23: Retires for his regular "spiritual exercises" at a time of penitence in the Christian calendar before Easter celebrations.

February 23: Receives Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, a former communist who has struck up an unusual friendship with Benedict over their mutual love for classical music.

February 24: Recites the Angelus for the last time before pilgrims in St Peter's Square.

February 25: Meets with cardinals of the Roman Curia -- effectively the government of the Catholic Church -- most of whom will have to step down when he resigns and many of whom will help elect his successor.

February 27: Holds his last weekly general audience in St Peter's Square -- an event usually held in Vatican's much smaller-capacity Paul VI auditorium. The Vatican has said it expects many thousands to bid Benedict a final farewell.

February 28: Meets with the cardinals who will help elect his successor, then boards a helicopter for the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo where he will pass his final hours as pope away from the public eye.

The ex-pope, who will revert to his name before becoming pope of Joseph Ratzinger, is expected to live temporarily in Castel Gandolfo and then move to a monastery inside the Vatican walls.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130213/calendar-pope-benedict-xvis-last-days-power