He headed for the helipad at the top of the hill in the Vatican gardens and flew for 15 minutes before riding in a motorcade to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo South of Rome in a 30-minute journey to begin his retirement. He had led 1.2 billion Catholics for seven years, 10 months and nine days, which is close to the average length of the 264 popes before him.
The 85-year old Benedict, who became the first Pope in 598 years to step down as head of the Catholic Church left the Vatican after greeting his staff for the final time. The ancient bell of the SenatorialPalace of the Capitol – Rome city hall – rang out as he left the papacy.
First assignment at Castel Gandolfo: Shortly after arriving at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict came out onto the balcony and waved feebly, saying ‘thank you, thank you’ to bid goodbye to rapturous and flag-waving local townspeople before retreating from the public eye.
The Swiss Guards closed the doors of Castel Gandolfo and quit their posts at exactly 7 pm as Benedict’s eight-year papacy formally ended at 8pm, when the Swiss Guards who protected the pontiff marched away from the doors of the 17th century palazzo, leaving the task to the Vatican Gendarmerie.
His last tweet: At 4 pm, the Pope tweeted for the final time at the @pontifex account, writing: “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”
Promise unconditional reverence and obedience to successor: In a poignant and powerful farewell delivered hours before his departure, Pope Benedict, yesterday, assured cardinals of his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor.
In an unexpected speech inside the Vatican’s frescoed Clementine Hall, the pontiff appeared to be trying to defuse concerns about possible conflicts arising from the peculiar situation of having both a reigning pope and a retired one. He also gave a final set of instructions to the “princes” of the church who will elect his successor, urging them to be united as they congregate to choose the 266th leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
“May the College of Cardinals work like an orchestra, where diversity – an expression of the universal church – always works toward a higher and harmonious agreement,” he urged.
It was seen as a clear reference to the deep internal divisions that have come to the fore in recent months following the leaks of sensitive Vatican documents that exposed power struggles and allegations of corruption inside the Vatican.
The moment was as unique as Benedict’s decision to quit about two weeks ago, with the 85-year-old pope, wearing his crimson velvet cape and using a cane, bidding farewell to his closest advisers and the cardinals themselves bowing to kiss his fisherman’s ring for the last time.
Some seemed to choke up at that moment, but the scene seemed otherwise almost normal, with cardinals chatting on the sidelines waiting their turn to say goodbye. Benedict said he would pray for the cardinals in coming days as they discuss the issues facing the church, the qualities needed in a new pope and prepare to enter into the secret conclave to elect him.
“Among you is also the future pope, whom I today promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,” Benedict said in his final audience. Benedict’s decision to live at the Vatican in retirement, be called “emeritus pope” and “Your Holiness” and to wear the white cassock associated with the papacy has deepened concerns about the shadow he might cast over the next papacy.
But Benedict has tried to address those worries over the past two weeks, saying that once retired he would be “hidden from the world” and living a life of prayer. In his final speech in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, he said he wasn’t returning to private life exactly, but rather to a new form of service to the church through prayer. And on Monday, the cardinals are expected to begin meeting to set the date for the conclave.
Some statistics on Benedict’s papacy: During his pontificate, Benedict made 30 trips throughout Italy and 24 trips abroad, three to his native Germany, for a total of more than 160,000 km travelled
He wrote three encyclicals: Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) in 2006, Spe Salvi (In hope we were saved) in 2007 and Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth) in 2009.
Three volume study
He authored a three-volume study “Jesus of Nazareth”, which he published under both his title Pope Benedict and his given name Joseph Ratzinger. The first volume subtitled “From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration” was published in 2008, the second “Holy Week: from the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection” came out in 2011 and final volume “The Infancy Narratives” in 2012
He gave a book-length interview to German journalist Peter Seewald published in 2010 under the title Light of the World. It was his third interview-book with Seewald. He proclaimed 44 saints in 10 canonization ceremonies and confirmed the sainthood of the 12th century German mystic, Hildegard of Bingen.
He created 90 cardinals in four consistories (meetings of the College of Cardinals), 61 of whom are still under 80 years old and eligible to enter the conclave next month to elect his successor. Of that total, 83 are still alive.
He convoked four extraordinary consistories for cardinals to discuss issues as varied as dealing with ultra-traditionalists and liturgical reform (2006), dialogue with other Christians and with Muslims (2007), the Church’s response to the sexual abuse scandal (2010) and the campaign to revitalize the Church’s missionary character (2011)
He called five assemblies of the Synod of Bishops to discuss the Eucharist (2005), the Church in Africa (2009), the Word of God in the Church’s mission (2008), the Church in the Middle East (2010) and the New Evangelization (2012).
Life and times of Pope Benedict XVI
POPE Benedict XVI was born in Germany and grew up under war reparations from World War I and as the Nazi regime was gaining power. He was briefly a member of the Hitler Youth in his early teens, after membership became mandatory in 1941. He turned to theological studies after the war, helping found the influential journal Communio. He was elevated to the papacy in 2005.
Early Life: Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was born in Marktlam Inn, Bavaria, Germany. His father, a civil servant, worked for the Bavarian state police force. Ratzinger was the youngest of three children. The young boy’s religious ambitions revealed themselves early. Aged five, he was excited by a visit by the Archbishop of Munich and announced that he wished to become a Cardinal. His father was a policeman and his mother a hotel cook (before she married).
As a defence against the Nazi regime, Ratzinger threw himself into the Roman Catholic Church, “a citadel of truth and righteousness against the realm of atheism and deceit,” he wrote. Ratzinger entered preparatory seminary in 1939. But he could not avoid the realities of the day. Ratzinger was briefly a member of the Hitler Youth in his early teens, after membership became mandatory in 1941.
Military Service: In 1943, he and fellow seminarians were drafted into the anti-aircraft corps. He had said his unit was attacked by Allied Forces that year, but he did not take part in that battle because a finger infection had kept him from learning to shoot. After about a year in the anti-aircraft unit, Ratzinger was drafted into the regular military. He told Time magazine in 1993 that while stationed near Hungary, he saw Hungarian Jews being sent to death camps.
Professor of dogmatic theology
Ratzinger became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959. Later, he moved to the University of Muenster (1963-1966) and took a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen. Alienated by the student protests at Tübingen, he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg.
Promotion within the Church: At the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Ratzinger served as chief theological expert to Cardinal Joseph Frings of Cologne, Germany. He was viewed as a reformer during this time. In 1972, Ratzinger helped found the theological journal Communio, which became one of the most important journals of Catholic thought.
In March 1977, he was named archbishop of Munich and Freising and, three months later, was named a Cardinal by Pope Paul VI. In 1981, Pope John Paul II named Cardinal Ratzinger the head of the Vatican office that enforces church theology and rules – the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 1998, he became Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals and was elected Dean in 2002. Ratzinger defended and reaffirmed Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control.
Papacy: On April 19, 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger then 78 years old was chosen by his fellow cardinals as pope upon the death of Pope John Paul II. He celebrated his Papal Inauguration Mass five days later. Known for his rigid views on Catholicism, he sought a more inclusive image as pope. He was the first German pope in nearly a thousand years. And he was only the second non-Italian elected pope in more than 500 years.
Resignation: On February 11, 2013, at age 85, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be resigning on February 28, 2013 – becoming the first pope in 598 years to step down from his post.
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Source: Vanguard News