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Pope Live: End of a papacy, dawn of a retirement


‘LAST LEG OF PILGRIMAGE’ Pope Benedict XVI walks away after addressing the crowd from the window of the Pope’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, the scenic town where he will spend his first post-Vatican days,Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. AP/ANDREW MEDICHINI

“Pope Live” follows the events of the final day of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy as seen by journalists from The Associated Press around the world.

AN ERA HAS ENDED

In the final moments of Benedict XVI’s papacy, the church bells began ringing.

It was 8 p.m. in the Italian hill town of Castel Gandolfo, 8 p.m. in the Vatican, 8 p.m. across Italy—the chosen time on the chosen day that the one who was chosen decided to retire.

Both Swiss Guards flanked the elegant 20-foot doorway leading into the papal palace in the town. One of them saluted an official. From the crowd—about 100 well-wishers who braved the freezing temperatures with their children and their dogs— houts rang out.

“Long live the pope!”

With precise movements, the guards marched into the palace. The massive wooden doors began closing shut, first one side, then the other. The crowd was applauding, sighing, shivering.

And with the click of a lock, Pope Benedict XVI’s eight-year reign as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics came to a quiet end.—Frances D’Emilio  

WHAT THE POPE SAID

The text of Pope Benedict XVI’s comments, delivered to a roaring crowd in Castel Gandolfo:

Dear friends, I’m happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of creation and your well-wishes, which do me such good. Thank you for your friendship, and your affection. You know this day is different for me than the preceding ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8 o’clock this evening and then no more.

I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth. But I would still … thank you … I would still, with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength, like to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity. I feel very supported by your sympathy.

Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you, I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!”

CROWDS DISAPPEAR

Minutes after the pope went back into the palace at Castel Gandolfo, the crowd of several thousand in the piazza outside has disappeared.

Many of the faithful have crammed into the two coffee bars on the square to warm up. Locals, meanwhile, headed home for dinner.

Swiss Guards are still standing at the entrance to the palace. But each is wearing a dark blue woolen mantle down to their knees over their colorful uniforms, trying to stay warm in the winter chill.

In less than 90 minutes, Pope Benedict XVI will be retired.

CRITICAL VOICE

A critical voice about Benedict as the doors close on his papacy:

As she left St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square in New Orleans’ French Quarter, Cheryl Hribar snapped a picture of the long aisle and altar of the city’s most famous church and posted it to her Facebook page. Hribar, a Catholic from Lorain, Ohio, says she’s been uneasy about the state of the Church and hopes a new pope can change that.

“Pope Benedict took us backward,” she says. “He wasn’t progressive enough. This is 2013. Let’s move on, move ahead and do more to reach our young people and get them back in Church. We need someone who will do something strong and positive.”—Stacey Plaisance

CARDINAL PLANS

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley says he hadn’t been planning any particular observation for the 8 p.m. hour when the pope officially resigned. O’Malley said the more significant moments for him were when the cardinals gathered with Benedict Thursday morning. “And watching him leave for Castel Gandolfo. There was a certain moment of finality in that.”

But the 8 o’clock hour? Dinner with friends, probably. “Pretty prosaic,” O’Malley says.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago told reporters at the Pontifical North American College he would say a prayer “that the Holy Spirit will guide us” as the cardinals set about the process of choosing a new pope, most likely from among their ranks.

Then George joked: “I might walk quietly through the corridors here to find out if I get any more deference from the seminarians.”—Colleen Barry

OFF THE NET

With the doors of the papal palazzo closed, Benedict XVI has taken his leave of the Vatican’s home page too. In place of Benedict’s picture, it now reads “Apostolica sedes vacans,” referring to the vacancy between papacies.—Geir Moulson

PAPACY ENDS

The doors of the papal palace have closed. Benedict XVI is no longer pope.

PRAYERS IN NYC

In New York City, the Rev. Moses Mary Apreku says Benedict XVI was right to resign if the work had become too onerous. “To me, it’s something that the Church should really accept, and thank him for his courage and pray for him,” Apreku says.

The 40-year-old Apreku is from Ghana, the West African Nation where one of his seminary teachers was Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, considered a contender to become the next pope. Apreku celebrated Mass today for two dozen worshippers scattered around St. Michael’s Church in midtown Manhattan, which has room for hundreds.

Apreku says Turkson would make a good pope—but he’s not rooting for him just because they’re both from Ghana.—Karen Matthews  

WAITING

Huge anticipation is building in Castel Gandolfo.

Both Swiss Guards are standing at attention at the 20-foot high doors to the papal palace.

Only 100 or so townspeople have come back out, some with children, others with their dogs. Most are quiet but light-hearted, waiting for history to be made as Benedict becomes the first pope in 600 years to retire.— Frances D’Emilio  

SAINT ONE DAY?

In Chicago, some Catholics attending Mass at St. Alphonsus Church on the city’s North Side—a church founded as a German national parish more than a century ago and the only church in the city that still occasionally celebrates Mass in German—say they are saddened by the pope’s decision to step down. But many ultimately agree he is doing the proper, even courageous thing.

“He’s a very frail man, his body is aging and I don’t think (being pope) is something he could handle any more.” says Nancy Oliver, a 73-year-old retired nurse. Like a lot of parishioners at a church that still has many German-Americans, she was excited when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became pope eight years ago.

Frank Scharl, 72, agrees. Scharl, whose parents came from Bavaria and were married in the Church in 1930, said that just as German-American parishioners were proud when Pope Benedict assumed the papacy, they are proud of his decision to step down for health reasons.

“Who knows,” Scharl says, “he might be a saint someday.”—Don Babwin

AN ARGENTINE POPE?

In Argentina, Benedict XVI’s final moments as pope were followed closely by the faithful in Buenos Aires’ downtown cathedral.

Leaving Mass, Raquel Gonzalez and her friend Zuni Gimenez paused to dip their fingers in holy water and make the sign of the cross on their chests, then on each other’s backs for good measure.

“It would be good if he’s an Argentine, but I what would please me is that the coming pope does some good in this world,” Gonzalez said of her hopes for the next in line. “That he achieves peace, and persuades those living with so much wealth to share more of it with the poor.”—Michael Warren  

GERMAN TRIBUTE

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Catholic leaders in the pope’s native Germany are offering thanks for his papacy at a Berlin service.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch says Benedict was “solid as a rock in a fast-changing world.”—Geir Moulson

NEW SHOES

It’s all about the shoes.

As Benedict XVI spends his final hours as pope, Mexican media are focused on the pontiff’s footwear.

The Vatican said this week that Benedict would abandon his signature ruby red shoes in retirement and wear a comfortable brown pair he was given in the city of Leon when he visited Mexico last year. Leon is a renowned shoemaking center.

Today’s headlines in Mexico include: “Benedict XVI will keep using Mexican shoes,” and “Benedict XVI loves his shoes from Mexican craftsmen.”—Michael Weissenstein

HIGH ALTITUDE

Benedict never visited Bolivia as pope, but impressed one bishop with his knowledge of the poor, landlocked South American nation.

The Rev. Eugenio Escarpellini is bishop of El Alto, a city at 13,000 feet (4,000 meters), where the elevation can put strain on the heart. He recalled meeting Benedict in Rome three years ago and, after telling him where he was from, hearing the pontiff ask, “How’s your heart?”

“I was surprised at how knowledgeable he is,” Escarpellini told Radio Fides.

Churches across Bolivia collected farewell messages for the pope in hundreds of ledgers and organized rosary-reciting sessions that were to last until a new pope is elected.

Even President Evo Morales, often critical of the Catholic hierarchy, had praise for the pontiff.

“We’re not all alike, but the pope’s questioning of humanity’s problems has made me reflect and I express my solidarity,” Morales said last week.—Carlos Valdez

THE POPE’S BROTHER

Benedict XVI’s elder brother says his final day as pontiff on Thursday was more of a private matter than his big send-off.

Monsignor Georg Ratzinger told Germany’s RTL television at his home in Regensburg, Germany, that Wednesday’s farewell in St. Peter’s Square was “the most important day for me.” He says it was Benedict XVI’s last encounter with the faithful “and with that, the essential has actually already happened.”

He said: “Today is more private, a sort of an accessory matter, at least according to my point of view.”

Georg Ratzinger, who is 89, was ordained on the same day in 1951 as his brother, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.—Geir Moulson

AMERICANS SAY GOODBYE

Catholic churches across the US are opening their doors for prayer timed with the end of Pope Benedict XVI’s reign.

At the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami, school children will read from Benedict’s writings, then blow out a candle in front of his photo at 2 p.m., the moment Benedict has chosen to step down.

At the same time, a Mass for the Election of a New Pope will be celebrated at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. The Archdiocese of Detroit is planning a holy hour of prayer from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is in Rome and will vote in the conclave to elect the next pontiff, asked churches in his archdiocese to ring bells for eight minutes starting at 1:52 p.m. to honor Benedict’s ministry.—Rachel Zoll


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