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.
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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

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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

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