.- Pope Benedict's resignation during Lent is no coincidence according to a Vatican expert who thinks the timing was tied to the Church’s liturgical calendar.
"He did this at the beginning of Lent because he wanted to ensure that when we celebrate Easter with the risen Christ, we could have a new pontiff with the Lord's resurrection," said Paul Badde, the Rome correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt.
"He did this within the framework of the Church year, not the secular year," said Badde.
Lent will begin with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 13 and Pope Benedict will give up his office 15 days later on Feb. 28.
This means the College of Cardinals will have exactly one month to choose the next Pope in time for Easter, which falls on March 31.
And according to the journalist, who first met Pope Benedict personally in the 1980s, this fact means it was more of a ''Catholic decision" than a ''German decision.''
"He is more Catholic than German, and more Bavarian than German," said Badde, who is close to the Vatican's German personnel.
"He is Catholic and he is Peter, so he is beyond any nationalism," he said.
"He had the language and the shape of the mind of a German, but he was really a universal pastor," Badde observed.
Pope Benedict XVI personally offered his thoughts on the timing of a Pope’s resignation when he was interviewed in 2010 by the German journalist Paul Seewald.
A Pope should not resign in a time of crisis, he said, but rather in a time of tranquility.
"When the danger is great, one must not run away and for that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign," said the pontiff.
"Precisely at a time like this one must stand fast and endure the difficult situation," he added.
"That is my view. One can resign at a peaceful moment or when one simply cannot go on, but one must not run away from danger and say that someone else should do it," Benedict XVI told Seewald.
Pope Benedict will celebrate his last Mass on Feb. 13 at 5 p.m., which will mark the blessing of ashes and the start of Lent.
Normally the Pope does this at the Roman Basilica of Santa Sabina, but this year Pope Benedict will preside over it at St. Peter's Basilica.
Also on the Pope’s schedule before his Feb. 28 retirement is a meeting with the priests of Rome on Feb. 14 at Paul VI Hall, which will focus on Vatican Council II.
His last general audience will be on Feb. 27. It is scheduled to be also in the Paul VI Hall, but it could be moved to St. Peter's Square.
The director of the Holy See Press office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed that the Pope's calendar will continue as scheduled until his last day.