Pope Benedict Hints He Will Retire Into Seclusion

The outgoing head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has hinted he will withdraw into seclusion after stepping down at the end of this month. "Even if I am withdrawing into prayer, I will always be close to all of you... even if I remain hidden to the world," he told a meeting of Roman priests. The pontiff, 85, shocked the world's biggest Christian Church on Monday when he announced his resignation. He cited his advanced age as the reason for resigning. The Pope appears to be planning a complete retreat from the public eye, the BBC's Alan Johnston reports from the Vatican. However, he is expected to spend his retirement in a monastery at the Vatican and his relationship with his successor as pope is bound to be an endless source of speculation, our correspondent adds. A new pope is expected to be elected by cardinals before Easter, which falls on 31 March this year.