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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Who knows if we will see him again?
Minutes before he retreated to a life of monasticism, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Friday morning, March 1 (Thursday evening, February 28 in Rome), ended his nearly 8-year papacy by thanking his supporters and promising to work for the common good.
“You know that 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 8:00 this evening and then no longer,” Benedict said from the balcony of his temporary retirement home at Castel Gandolfo.
Riding a helicopter, he left the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City at around 12:30 am in the Philippines (5:30 pm in Rome), and officially resigned at 3 am in the Philippines (8 pm in Rome). He is now called pontiff emeritus, a unique case that hasn’t happened for 600 years.
In his last public appearance, the 85-year-old Benedict called himself “a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.”
“I am 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,” Benedict said.
He added: “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.”
On Friday, Benedict, who goes by the Twitter handle @Pontifex, also posted his last tweet. “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives,” he said.
In an interview, leading theologian Fr Catalino Arevalo described Benedict’s resignation as “a great act of a great man.”
He also said Benedict’s resignation clarifies the role of a Catholic pope. “By resigning he makes it very clear, the pope is a servant of the Church. The title that has been used for centuries – Servus Servorum Dei, the Servant of the Servants of God.”
“The Church is much bigger than the pope,” Arevalo told Rappler, “and here when the pope, as a human person, as a human being, reaches the point of inadequacy, that’s as a human being. But the Church goes on,” he said. (Watch Rappler’s video report below.)
Vow to obey successor
Earlier on Thursday, Benedict met 144 cardinals to bid them farewell – and to vow obedience to one, among them, who will succeed him in the papacy.
“Among you there is also the future pope to whom I promise my unconditional obedience and reverence,” the pope said in the Vatican’s ornate Clementine Hall.
In a few days, the public will anticipate the conclave to elect the next pope. Benedict on Monday, February 25, allowed cardinals to hold the conclave earlier than March 15.
Speaking to Rappler, Catholics from various continents said they want a non-European to replace Benedict. (Watch Rappler’s video report below.)
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