UK & World News
Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy Enters Final Hours
Pope Benedict XVI's tenure as leader of the world's Catholics is drawing to a close.
The 85-year-old stands down as Pontiff after nearly eight years and at a time when the Church is mired in controversy.
This morning, more than 100 cardinals said their farewells to the Pope at a gathering in the Clementine Hall in the Apostolic Palace.
In an unexpected speech, he promised "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor during the gathering and urged his cardinals to work in unity as they select the next pope.
Just before 4pm UK time, Benedict will leave his apartments for the last time, give his thanks to the senior staff who have been by his side during his papacy, and then make his way to the Vatican helipad.
From there he will fly to Castel Gandolfo - the Pope's retreat on the outskirts of Rome.
Then, at around 4.30pm, he will make his last brief appearance on a balcony in front of an expected crowd of around 7,000 before withdrawing from public life for good.
At 7pm the doors of the villa will close and the Swiss Guard will stand aside marking the end of Benedict's papacy.
From then on he will be known as Emeritus Pope and devote his days to prayer and meditation.
Once renovations are complete, Benedict will move to a monastery in the grounds of the Vatican.
He will still wear a white cassock normally reserved only for pontiffs, but without a doubled shoulder cape.
Spokesman Frederico Lombardi said he has chosen to swap his trademark red shoes for a brown pair given to him by artisans in Mexico during a trip last year.
Edward Pentin, from the Catholic Herald, said Benedict will live a monk's life and not interfere in the work of his successor.
The next pope will be chosen by secret ballot during the conclave of eligible cardinals who will vote in the Sistine Chapel.
Pope Benedict XVI's departure from the Vatican sets in motion a timetable of centuries-old traditions in what is an unprecedented resignation in modern Catholic history.
After 7pm on Thursday, the Catholic Church enters a period known as "Sede Vacante" (vacant See) during which a senior cardinal takes over interim powers until a new pope is elected.
That cardinal, referred to as the camerlengo or chamberlain, will be Italy's Tarcisio Bertone.
The camerlengo has traditionally had the role of officially certifying the death of a pope - once carried out by tapping the pontiff's forehead three times with a special silver hammer and calling out his birth name.
He is also charged with destroying the Fisherman's Ring - a gold signet ring specially cast for each new pope - which symbolises the end of a papacy.
From Monday, cardinals from around the world will hold a series of meetings known as general congregations.
The meetings are aimed at identifying priorities for the Roman Catholic Church for the future, but are also a good way of vetting possible candidates for next pope.
The cardinals then meet in a secret conclave to choose the next pope under a system adapted in the 13th century.
All conclaves have been held in the Sistine Chapel and the cardinals are sworn to absolute secrecy under pain of ex-communication during voting.
Two ballots are held in the morning, and two in the afternoon, until one candidate wins two-thirds of the votes.
At the end of each session, the ballots are burned in a stove by the chapel, releasing smoke above the Apostolic Palace. The smoke is black after each unsuccessful ballot, white once the vote succeeds.
what do you think?
i think.he.s been very brave in his decision to retire and i hope he finds peace and comfort in his final days.
Oh you would! Don't you worry he will spend his days living in the lap of luxury! Ugh!
oh hello.julie, wondered.when you would surface.with.your ignorant views.
and to add, hope he does.have.a nice.life, he.s.an old, frail man. Being a nurse you have compassion for people, whatever they may have done.
"brave" !....are you joking. whats brave about retiring ? he should have been brave and refused to join the hitler youth. he should have been brave and outed all the molesters he protected. he should have been brave and spoken for womens rights. brave !....what a joke.
Your a nurse!! Good grief! That's really suprised me! Lol! Don't you need tolerance and compassion for a job like that....well well, never would have guessed!......oh! T bulgin, well said!!!
Come on Benedict, this is the day to specifically apologise for the 9 million men, women, children and even animals who were burnt as witches between 1000 - 1700AD. Now is the day to condemn all the Inquisitors who tortured and murdered; Nicholas Remy, Pierre de Lancre, Thomas de Torquemada, Prince/Bishop 'The Fox of Dornhiem' who ran the Inquisitor prison of 'Hexenhaus' in Bamberg - the forerunner of the Concentration camps. Come on Benedict, time to apologise for all the scholars who were burnt during the 15th/16th century for trying to guide Europe by scientific/rationale thinking instead of patriachal theological doctrine. The Vatican could heal so much historic damage by just saying sorry. . . .
are you ok.?
STEVIE MAY - I appreciated your well composed, researched post when I read it yesterday and enjoyed it again today. Sorry - such a small word, but as you say so healing. The therapeutic benefit of an apology is amazing. Can I be cheeky and add to your post a request that Benedict turn whistle blower and provide details of ALL those paedophile priests that he has shielded for years from the authorities? Maybe he could add a meaningful, compassionate message about the Holocaust? His options are infinite - he could make this a day to be remembered for so many gestures for all of mankind. Sadly, he'll probably just pack up a few trinkets and give back his red Pradas - shame.
I'm fine Andrea, thanks for asking. J R Haynes - quite right, the Vatican's crimes against humanity are not just limited to the Middle Ages. . They have enough to apologise for in recent times again. Why won't they say sorry? Only the Bishop of Rome can tell you that. So much for christian compassion. Jesus must be ashamed.
I applaud you for your knowledge, stevie, Andrea just being her usual sarky self!
now how.do you know i was being sarky, you.have no idea. you are a.nightmare.
Hold on - what about the thousands of 'heretics', witches and old ladies who were burnt and tortured to death in England, Germany and North America which were all outside the juristiction of the Vatican. 9 Million is ridicously over estimated. Where on earth did you pluck that figure from? And why exactly does the church have to apologise for the Holocaust ?
MARY SILVESTRE - My comment about the Holocaust was in reference to the fact that Benedict was an enthusiastic member of Hitlers Youth Movement. He served The Fuhrer in his attempt to annihilate Jews, Gays, Disabled people etc. Then he decided to change jobs and become a God fearing Catholic. Gods right hand man has never shown remorse for the inhumane treatment of so many. Gods work??
it wont be long now until all you poisoned dwarfs have a new Pope to hate. !!!! What are you going to do if they elect one of the African Cardinals ?
Poisoned dwarves? The mask of 'christian kindness' has slipped revealing your true nature beckett? Its a bit ironic you use the name Beckett, after Thomas, a TRUE christian - nonjudgmental, compassionate, inclusive and kind. Maybe you should search your own soul and imagine what Jesus would think of you?
You have a right to your beliefs but why be so rude and obnoxious. The colour of the new Pope's skin is irrelevant (like the US President). Smacks a bit of racism!
I'll do absolutely nothing. White or black, still fairy tales in books.
The racism in your comment comes from you pjbeckett. I will hate the new pope whatever the colour of his skin, no bias from me.
Well done chaps ! I am not a true and pius believer I just go along with it and Yes I am a racist by this country`s definition of it.
COITUS INTERRUPTUS? In good Catholic tradition!!
for.goodness sake.comment.not.funny, just.stupid.
pay no heed, William, Andrea has no sense of humour, .....she likes jimbo saVILE!;-)