Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Benedict Closes out His Papacy on a Day of Tearful Farewells

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Benedict Closes out His Papacy on a Day of Tearful Farewells

Article excerpt

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy Benedict XVI left the Catholic Church in unprecedented limbo Thursday as he became the first pope in 600 years to resign, capping a tearful day of farewells that included an extraordinary pledge of obedience to his successor.

As bells tolled, two Swiss Guards standing at attention at the papal palace in Castel Gandolfo shut the thick wooden doors shortly after 8 p.m., symbolically closing out a papacy whose legacy will be most marked by the way it ended a resignation instead of a death.

Benedict, who will spend his first two months of retirement inside the palace walls, leaves behind an eight-year term shaped by struggles to move the church beyond clerical sex abuse scandals and to reawaken Christianity in an indifferent world efforts his successor will now have to take up.

For the time being, the governance of the Catholic Church shifts to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the camerlengo, or chamberlain, who along with the College of Cardinals will guide the church and make plans for the conclave to elect the 266th leader of the worlds 1.2 billion Catholics.

One of Bertones first acts was to lock the papal apartment inside the Vatican. In another task steeped in symbolism, he will ensure that Benedicts fishermans ring and seal are destroyed.

On Benedicts last day, the mood was vastly different inside the Vatican than at Castel Gandolfo. At the seat of the popes, Benedicts staff tearfully bade the pontiff goodbye in scenes of dignified solemnity. A more lively atmosphere reigned in the countryside, with well-wishers jamming the hilltop towns main square shouting Viva il Papa! (Long live the pope!) and wildly waving the yellow and white flags of the Holy See.

I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth, Benedict told the cheering crowd in his final public words as pope.

It was a remarkable bookend to a papacy that began on April 19, 2005, with a similarly meek speech delivered from the loggia overlooking St. Peters Square, where the newly elected Benedict said he was but a simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.

Over eight years, Benedict tried to set the church on a more traditional course, convinced that all the ills afflicting it sexual abuse, dwindling numbers of priests and empty pews were a result of a misreading of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. …

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