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Friday, March 1, 2013

BBC News - Pope Benedict XVI formally resigns to become 'pilgrim'

BBC News - Pope Benedict XVI formally resigns to become 'pilgrim'
The Pope left the Vatican in a motorcade before boarding a helicopter to the papal retreat

Pope Benedict XVI has officially resigned, saying that he now "will simply be a pilgrim" starting his last journey on earth.

The pontiff, aged 85, was earlier flown by helicopter from the Vatican to his retreat at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.

The college of cardinals, headed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is now in charge of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics until a new pope is elected.

Benedict vowed "unconditional obedience and reverence" to his successor.

He stepped down after nearly eight years in office - the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.


In normal times, popes make their final exit from the Vatican in a coffin and - after a period of mourning - are laid to rest in the crypt of St Peter's Basilica as the great bells of the first church of Christendom boom out.
But not Benedict XVI.
His nearly eight-year-long pontificate has ended not in death, but with a remarkable resignation.
Benedict was clearly relieved that the world has now accepted the fact that his physical health has declined to a point where he cannot continue to carry on the heavy responsibilities of leading his Church.
Pope Benedict's last words on his final day in office - as he greeted one-by-one the cardinals - were a plea to work together in harmony.
Benedict, a classical music lover, urged them to seek to play in harmony, just like an orchestra - for the future good of the Catholic Church.
'Pope emeritus'
Benedict officially ceased to be the Pope at 20:00 local time (19:00 GMT).

The resignation was marked by the papal Swiss Guards stepping down from their posts at Castel Gandolfo to return to the Vatican. The protection of Benedict was taken over by Vatican police.

In his retirement, Benedict will wear a simple white cassock rather than his papal clothes, and swap his famous red shoes - the colour is symbolic of the blood of the early Christian martyrs - for brown.

His "Fisherman's Ring", the special signet ring which contains the Pope's name and is impressed to validate certain official documents, is expected to be destroyed along with the lead seal of the pontificate.

The German pontiff, who was born Joseph Ratzinger, will continue to be known as Benedict XVI, with the new title of "pope emeritus".

The long-time theologian is expected eventually to retire to a monastery on a hill inside Vatican City, with officials saying he will not be able intervene publicly in the papacy of his successor, though he may offer advice.

The conclave of 115 cardinals is expected to meet at the Vatican on Monday morning to start planning the election of the next pope.

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