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James Martin

Pope Benedict Resigns: What It Means for Vatican Tourists

By February 11, 2013

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Well, so far the Chinese Year of the Snake is off to a tumultuous start. For the first time in around 600 years, a Pope has resigned, citing his strength and health.

What does this mean for tourists planning Vatican visits in the spring? The Sistine Chapel will be occupied by "a conclave of cardinals that must begin 15-20 days after Benedict's Feb. 28 resignation." (Electing a pope: conclave, oath, chimney smoke).

The Vatican will be closed during the period, according to the Dream of Italy blog, which promises Vatican updates as the story unfolds.

Of course, you won't be able to request an Audience with the Pope until there is one.

Where was the first conclave (from: cum clave) held? Undiscovered Viterbo. It was a tough one, 33 months long, in which "the roof was removed to help speed up the election of the new pope and then in desperation the cardinals' food (and wine) supply was reduced."

It is said that Pope Benedict never wanted to be Pope. Who will succeed him is anyone's guess, but Scott P. Richert, About.com's guide to Catholicism, hopes "the Successor of Peter doesn't want to be pope, either.

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