News / Europe

Benedict Ends 8-Year Reign, Pledges Obedience to Next Pope

Swiss guards stand at the entrance of papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
Swiss guards stand at the entrance of papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
Pope Benedict has resigned after nearly eight years in office, becoming the first Roman Catholic Church leader to step down voluntarily in 600 years.

Benedict's resignation took effect Thursday at 8 p.m. local time (1900 UTC), several hours after he left the Vatican by helicopter for the papal retreat of Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome. At the stroke of the hour, two Swiss Guards guarding the entrance of the residence symbolically closed the gates and left their posts.

Pope Benedict waves to the faithful from the balcony of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.Pope Benedict waves to the faithful from the balcony of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
Pope Benedict waves to the faithful from the balcony of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
Pope Benedict waves to the faithful from the balcony of his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
Earlier, the 85-year-old pontiff pledged "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his eventual successor, as he addressed Roman Cardinals in a private farewell at the Vatican. He urged them to unite, saying "among you there is the future pope" whom they will have to choose in the coming weeks.

Vatican clergy and workers applauded as Benedict departed. Officials also sealed the papal apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square.

Benedict later made a brief appearance on the balcony of Castel Gandolfo, blessing thousands of well-wishers and describing himself as a pilgrim who is about to start his "last pilgrimage" on Earth.

In a final message on his official Twitter account, the leader of the world's one billion Catholics thanked his followers for their "love and support." He also wrote, "May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives."

In the coming days, Roman Catholic cardinals will gather in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel for a conclave, a group meeting bound by centuries-old tradition that will elect a new pope.

  • A helicopter carrying Pope Benedict takes off from inside the Vatican on its way to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
  • People wait in Rome to see the helicopter taking Pope Benedict to Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
  • In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict holds his farewell meeting with cardinals at the Vatican, Feb. 28, 2013.
  • Inflatable letters compose the message "Thank You Benedict, we are all with you" in the town of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, Feb. 28, 2013.
  • Pope Benedict holds his last general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Feb. 27, 2013.
  • Pope Benedict waves to the faithful after arriving in St. Peter's Square to hold his last general audience at the Vatican, Feb. 27, 2013.
  • The crowd listens to Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Square during his last general audience at the Vatican, Feb. 27, 2013.
  • A nun waits in a packed St. Peter's Square for Pope Benedict's last general audience, Feb. 27, 2013.
  • Nuns from Brazil wait for the arrival of Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Square, Feb. 27, 2013.
  • A sign reading "Thank you" in Italian is held in St. Peter's Square as Pope Benedict holds his last general audience at the Vatican, Feb. 27, 2013.

Cardinals who are 80 or older will not vote.

Benedict gave his final address to the faithful at St. Peter's Square on Wednesday. He said the church experienced troubles and "stormy waters" during his tenure, but added that God will not let the institution sink.

The pontiff also said he is aware of the novelty and the gravity of his decision to step down, announced on February 11. The only other pope to do so of his own free will was Celestine V, a hermit who resigned in 1294 after several months in office, as a protest against Vatican infighting.

The church will refer to Benedict as "pope emeritus" in retirement. He is expected to return to a convent in the Vatican after several months at Castel Gandolfo. Benedict has said he plans to live quietly in prayer and meditation - in his words - "hidden to the world."

Some critics foresee possible tension between Benedict and the new pope who succeeds him. But, a Vatican spokesman, the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said Thursday that Benedict has "no intention of interfering in the positions, decisions or activities of his successor."

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: No Denial here. from: USA
February 28, 2013 2:54 PM
The Bible says of Jesus that there is no other name by which men can be saved (Acts 4:12). There is only one mediator between God and men, and that is Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). We can now see that there is no biblical foundation for claiming to be a representative of Christ on earth. No man could do what Christ has done, or what Christ is now doing on behalf of humankind. But the title of vicar also carries with it another implication: the bearer has the same jurisdictional power of the official he represents. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus Christ is the one who says He will build His church; He never delegates this power. By claiming the title of Vicar of Christ, the reigning pope is, in fact, promising to do what Christ promised.

Jesus does indeed predict a “vicar” in the sense of a “replacement” for His physical presence here on earth. However, this “vicar of Christ” is not a priest, high priest, bishop, or pope. The only biblical “Vicar of Christ” is the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 declares, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:16-18 proclaims, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” The Holy Spirit is Christ’s “replacement” on the earth. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor, Teacher (John 14:26), and guide into all truth (John 16:13).

In claiming that the pope is the “Vicar of Christ,” the Catholic Church rejects the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ’s priesthood, and grants to the pope roles that Christ Himself declared would belong to the Holy Spirit. It is therefore blasphemy to ascribe to the pope the title of “Vicar of Christ.”

In Response

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 01, 2013 5:02 PM
Well that is the beauty of religeous freedom, in a democracy, you can interpret the religeous books any way you want to, and beyond that, you can even believe in rocks; and unless you belong to the particular religion, its not really your business to criticize how they worship or what dogma they belive in. No more than it is a Catholic's business to tell a Protestant or Muslim of any other religion how to carry out their worshipping.
Mr. Ratzinger has shown great courage in packing it in; no person should be a slave to a callling, once he/she feels no longer capable of doing his/her work, he/she should be able to retire. For this reason, I praise Mr. Ratzinger. We see too many leaders clinging to power, well beyond their best days.

by: richard Hansen from: New York
February 28, 2013 2:00 PM
I see the pope is to live in a convent. Perhaps he is looking for what he missed as a pope.
In Response

by: celestino from: Roma
February 28, 2013 4:53 PM
A convent does not mean where sisters stay.

by: Anonymous
February 28, 2013 6:40 AM
Gods bless you

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs