Pope Benedict XVI is planning to stay out of the public eye following his retirement at the end of the month but may stand ready to advise his successor if asked, his brother said Tuesday after talking with the pontiff.
Speaking to reporters at his home in the southern German city of Regensburg, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who was ordained on the same day in 1951 as his brother Joseph, said he didn't expect Benedict's continued presence in the Vatican to intimidate the next pope.
"It's possible he (the next pope) may ask for advice," said Ratzinger. "I think it's quite likely they will talk."
It is the first time in nearly 600 years the Catholic Church is faced with the problem of how to deal with a former pope living on into his successor's term.
"We have no experience with a retired pope," said Rudolf Voderholzer, the bishop of Regensburg who is also in charge of the institute that publishes the pope's theological works.
Voderholzer said that even if Benedict does continue to write — as he did prolifically before and during his papacy — no new works would be published during his lifetime that might be seen as speaking directly to the faithful.
"Anything he published could be conceived as interference in the work of the next pope," he said.
The 85-year-old Benedict shocked the world Monday by announcing that he planned to step down from the papacy at the end of the month.
For his brother, however, the decision was no surprise.
"He has been thinking about it for several months," the elder Ratzinger said. "He concluded that his powers are falling victim to age."
He dismissed suggestions that the pope had been pushed to resign.
"The intrigues are a fairy tale," the 89-year-old said. "There were no intrigues against him."
As for his successor, Ratzinger said his brother "feels that a younger person is needed to deal with the problems of the times."
Asked whether he thought the time had come for a pope from outside of Europe, Ratzinger said that could happen in the future, but that he did not think it would in the next election.
"For now I think the job will remain with a European," he said.
Ratzinger said he hoped to visit his brother in the Vatican later this year, but didn't expect the pope to return to Germany or Regensburg, where their parents and sister are buried.
The Vatican says Benedict will spend some time at the papal summer retreat south of Rome, and eventually return to the Vatican to live at a monastery inside the gardens.
"You don't transplant an old tree," Ratzinger said.