Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Pope's Final Goodbye

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor to the Throne of St. Peter, Supreme Head of the Universal Church waved his final goodbye yesterday, February 28, 2013, as he prepared to leave Vatican City

Yesterday marked the end of the eight-year reign of the 265th Vicar of Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict XVI. 

As he left Vatican City, where he had given an emotional send-off of cheers and applause from closest aides, nuns and priests, the bells of St. Peter's Basilica pealed marking his exit in the papacy. While watching the news at abc I saw how weak and frail the pope is, he barely moved his head and he walked with the aid of a cane.

The pope, who is regarded as Catholic church's top theologian for three decades, left the Vatican wearing a white papal cassock and boarded a white helicopter and went to Castel Gandolfo Palace, a summer residence on the hilltop of Rome overlooking Vatican City. He will take up residence there for two months. 

The farewell was emotional as it was the first time in many centuries that a Pope voluntarily resigned or abdicated. After his departure, the church officials sealed the papal apartment and elevator and would not open until the next Pope is elected. They also broke the papal ring, a traditional ritual when the Papacy is vacant to avoid impostors from using the seal of authority.
The scenic view of Castel Gandolfo Palace just outside Vatican

Upon arrival in his new residence, the Pope was greeted by thousands of faithful who gathered outside the balcony of the palace to see the last glimpse of the Holy Father. 

Benedict XVI also took the opportunity to thank his supporters "I am happy to be with you surrounded by the beauty of creation, thank you for your friendship and affection". He added "I will no longer be pope but a simple pilgrim who is starting out on the last part of his pilgrimage on earth". Vatican officials announced that the Pope will still be addressed as "Your Holiness".

The Pope's resignation will provide Cardinals a different view in electing the next Pope. The Cardinals around the world, the only church officials who are eligible to choose a new successor of St. Peter, will gather in Vatican sometimes in March to select Benedict XVI's successor but the crucial point of the criteria of this Conclave might be largely different from the past gatherings.

As mental and physical strengths are the core reasons why the Pope declared his resignation, Cardinals might choose someone who is more energetic and young to lead the universal church.

A cardinal from Australia was quoted saying that his vote will go to "somebody who will maintain the tradition both in faith and morals, where it is under attack. I want somebody who is able to speak to the world and also somebody who has a strong pastoral experience in a diocese and who is able to lift the morale of the Roman Curia and perhaps provides a bit more discipline".




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