It is up to the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, to make preparations for a conclave to elect a new pope.
Father Lombardi said after the pope steps down, he will move to the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. He will stay there until the renovation is completed of a cloister, set up by Blessed John Paul II, which is located inside the Vatican Gardens, he said.
The pope will then live in the cloister, called the Mater Ecclesia monastery, and dedicate his time to prayer and reflection, the Vatican spokesman said.
It was likely the pope would keep writing, he added, since the pope has mentioned many times that he has wanted to spend more time dedicated to study and prayer.
When asked if there would be any confusion over leadership or a schism were a possibility, Father Lombardi said he believes the pope “had no fear of this” happening because he clearly demonstrated his desire to step down and no longer be pope or retain any papal authority.
“I think in no way is there any risk of confusion or division” in this respect, he said.
The pope, who is past the age allowed a cardinal to vote for a new pope, will obviously not be part of the conclave that will convene to elect his successor, he added.
He is not likely to play any role in the “interregnum” or time between popes because “there is no role for a predecessor pope” during this period, the priest said.
The Jesuit priest said a “sede vacante” usually lasts less than a month, and that it was more than likely a new pope would be elected in time to lead the full schedule of Holy Week and Easter liturgies.
Cardinal Sodano, who was one of the many cardinals present during the pope’s announcement, addressed the pope, telling him the news left them with “a sense of loss, almost completely incredulous.”
However, it was obvious that his decision was based on a “great affection” for the well-being of the church, the cardinal said.