BY Ian Dunn | March 8 2013 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


From Pope to pilgrim

Cardinals flock to conclave as Benedict XVI becomes first Pope to retire in almost 600 years

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said he was becoming a ‘simple pilgrim,’ starting ‘the last stage of his pilgrimage on this earth’ as he retired from the Papacy.

Since His Holiness left office last Thursday at 7pm GMT, the world’s cardinals have been flocking to the Vatican and holding pre-conclave meetings as they prepare to elect his successor. Meanwhile, the 85-year-old Pope emeritus, the first Pontiff to retire in close to 600 years, has begun his retirement at the Papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, a life, as he has said, ‘hidden from the world.’

Final moments

Benedict XVI arrived at the Papal summer residence south of Rome, in a helicopter, two hours before the end of his Pontificate.

In his final public address as Pope (above), and perhaps ever, he told townspeople, pilgrims and visitors from the villa balcony that he was very happy to be there, ‘surrounded by the beauty of creation and by your friendship, which does me such good.’

“You know that for me, today is different than the days that have gone before,” he told them before he gave a final blessing. “You know that I am no longer Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, I am a simple pilgrim who begins the last stage of his pilgrimage on this earth. But with all my heart, with all my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, with all my interior strength, I still want to work for the common good and the good of the Church and humanity.”

Unconditional support

Just prior to leaving the Vatican, the Pope Emeritus told 144 cardinals, including many of the 115 under the age of 80 who are eligible and expected to vote in the upcoming conclave, that he pledged his ‘unconditional reverence and obedience’ to the next Pope.

“I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next days, that you may be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope,” he told the gathering in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.


That night, having laid down his burden, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the retired Pope’s secretary said that Benedict XVI seemed ‘relaxed’ and slept well.

Archbishop Gänswein said Pope Emeritus Benedict celebrated Mass at 7am the next day as normal.


–        This story was reported in full in the March 8 print edition of the SCO.

–        The conclave of cardinals had not begun as the SCO went to press this week.

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