New Delhi TV recently published a Agence Franch-Presse report describing the former pope’s “invisible presence at conclave:”

Retired pope Benedict XVI is gone but far from forgotten as cardinals begin voting for candidates to replace him, with his personal secretary Georg Gaenswein one of the last to leave the Sistine Chapel before the start of the conclave.

Rev. Robert Sirico addresses Benedict’s influence on the conclave:

Benedict has “been very careful not to insert himself into the proceedings” for his succession.

He pointed to Benedict’s “removal of himself to Castel Gandolfo, and the fact that he made no comments or expressed any preferences on a number of the things leading up to his resignation.”

The “pope emeritus,” who turns 86 next month, has begun his retirement at the papal summer residence outside Rome with promises of being “hidden from the world” and living as a “simple pilgrim.”

“Obviously there are consequences to his decision and obviously not all good,” Sirico acknowledged, adding: “It has to weigh on his mind (that the cardinal electors) are in this position because of his decision.”

One obvious consequence is that “future popes could more easily resign,” he noted.

Moreover, once the election is over, Benedict’s potential silent influence on the future pope cannot be underestimated.

Sirico said the cardinals “genuinely have a high regard for Benedict regardless of whatever management problems he had,” and mused that the former pope could even receive some votes in the first round of balloting on Tuesday.

Sirico, whose think tank studies religion and freedom, said of the new pope: “I would consider this a real asset to be able to consult my predecessor.”

He conceded the novelty, however, of “having a living pope in your backyard.”

Read “Living ex-pope an invisible presence at conclave” here.