In Saturday's article, Seewald recalled asking the pope in August how badly the 2012 scandal over leaks of papal documents, in which the pope's ex-butler was convicted of aggravated theft, had affected him.
Benedict said the affair had not thrown him off his stride or made him tired of office. "It is simply incomprehensible to me," he said.
The journalist said that when he last saw Benedict about 10 weeks ago, his hearing had deteriorated and he appeared to have lost vision in his left eye, adding that the pope had lost weight and appeared tired.
Benedict, however, appeared in good form on Saturday for some of his final audiences. He met with the Guatemalan president, a group of visiting Italian bishops, and had his farewell audience with Italian Premier Mario Monti.
"He was in good condition," Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina told reporters afterward. "He didn't seem tired, rather smiling, lively — and happy and very clear in his decision to resign."
Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan and a leading contender to succeed Benedict, said several of the visiting bishops noted at the end of their audience that they were the last group of bishops to be received by the pope. "'This responsibility means you have to become a light for all,'" he quoted Benedict as saying.
Lombardi also gave more details about Benedict's final public audiences and plans for retirement, saying already 35,000 people had requested tickets for his final general audience to be held in St. Peter's Square on Feb. 27.
He said Benedict would spend about two months in the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome immediately after his abdication, to allow enough time for renovations to be completed on his retirement home — a converted monastery inside the Vatican walls.
That means Benedict would be expected to return to the Vatican, no longer as pope, around the end of April or beginning of May, Lombardi said.
He was asked if and when the pope would meet with his successor and whether he would participate in his installation Mass. Like many open questions about the end of Benedict's papacy, Lombardi said, both issues simply haven't been resolved.
Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield
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