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Vatican: Pope Has Had Pacemaker For Years
The Vatican has admitted for the first time that Pope Benedict has had a heart pacemaker for several years.
The Pope, who is stepping down at the end of the month due to "deteriorating" health, had its battery replaced a few months ago in what was described as a "routine" procedure.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the 85-year-old had the pacemaker fitted "a long time" before he became Pontiff in 2005.
The Italian daily newspaper Il Sole 24 said Benedict had the pacemaker procedure less than three months ago in a Rome hospital and did not miss any public appearances.
The Pope will bid his followers a final farewell in an audience in St Peter's Square, Rome, on February 27, the day before he officially steps down.
"The last general audience will be held in the square since a lot of people will come," Mr Lombardi said at a press briefing.
He also said the traditional Ash Wednesday mass on February 13 would be his last major religious ceremony as Pope together with other prelates.
The mass, which marks the start of a period of penitence before Easter for Christians, will be held in St Peter's Basilica instead of a smaller Rome church in order to accommodate large numbers of people expected because of the announcement.
"We suppose there will be a lot of people who will want to come and pray with the Holy Father and the cardinals and bishops," Mr Lombardi said.
"It is an important concelebration. It is will be the Holy Father's last major concelebration with the public present," he added.
Mr Lombardi said the Pope would also speak about his experiences during the reformist Second Vatican Council in the 1960s at an already scheduled meeting with parish priests from Rome on Thursday.
"This is an important moment, an embrace from the Pope," he said.
Meanwhile, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, said his brother will stay out of the public eye and lead a quiet life in the Vatican when he returns to being Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The priest , who lives in the southern German city of Regensburg and was ordained on the same day as the pope in 1951, said his brother has no plans to move back to his homeland.
"You don't transplant an old tree," said the 89-year-old.