Category: Popes

St Gregory The Great

Pope Gregory I (c. 540 – 12 March 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was Pope from 3 September 590 to his death in 604. (Wikipedia)

Saint Gregory the Great

He is not wise to me who is wise in words only, but he who is wise in deeds.
– St Gregory

Pope Francis says ………


Pope Francis says ………

I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord.

Please know, Jesus never lets you down!

The Lord knows what to say to you.

Please know the Love and tenderness of Mother Mary never let you down.

And holding on to her mantle and the power that comes from  Jesus’s love on the cross, let us move forward, always forward.

And walk together as brothers and sisters, in the Lord,  forward.



Pope Francis In Twenty Facts

pope-francis-graphic-biography-montagePope Francis is beginning to look like a good champion of the Faith, and may turn out to be the greatest Pope in the modern history of papacy.

Pope Francis is invigorating the Catholic Church and in so doing also the Christian faith in general.

I have to admit that my favourite pope, (though I am not a practising Roman Catholic anymore – but they say a Catholic will always be a Catholic, just look into the history of Henry VIII!) is Pope Benedict XVI. I was so disappointed when he resigned but I do understand it now. He said that he that he heard from God that it was time for him to go and let someone with more vim and vigour to take over. How right that was!

Since he became in charge of the Papal Seat, Pope Francis has been vocal and proactive.  He has tackled things head-on which is admirable in the short time that he has been the Pope.

Let us get to know him more, below are 20 facts about Pope Francis.


Pope Francis In Twenty Facts


He’s had a girlfriend, he loves the tango, and at one point he worked as a bouncer. Here’s 20 things you didn’t know about this most humble of Popes.

Pope francis twenty things you may not know

Pope Francis is a passionate fan of San Lorenzo Football Club Photo: Reuters

By Harry Alsop

1. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born Dec 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, one of five children born to an Italian railway worker and his wife.

2. His father, Mario Jorge, emigrated to Argentina from the Piedmont region of Italy.

3. He speaks Italian, German and Spanish fluently, in addition to a smattering of English, French and Portuguese. He can also speak a bit of the Piedmontaise dialect too.

4. He lost part of his lung to infection as a youth.

5. He is a fan of the tango. “I love tango and I used to dance when I was young,” he told Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin, the authors of his 2010 biography El Jesuita.

6. He had a girlfriend. “She was one of a group of friends I went dancing with. But then I discovered my religious vocation,” he said to Ambrogetti and Rubin

7. He worked as a bouncer in a Buenos Aires bar to earn money as a student.

8. He is a passionate fan of San Lorenzo Football Club, his local team. They were the first Argentine team to win the domestic double, in 1972.

9. His favourite painting is The White Crucifixion, painted by Marc Chagall in 1938. The painting shows Jesus being crucified on the cross, wearing a prayer shawl as a symbol that he is Jewish. The painting originally showed a soldier with a swastika on his armband burning down a synagogue.

10. His favourite film is Babette’s Feast, a 1987 Danish drama directed by Gabriel Axel.

An early 1950’s picture of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, right, posing with unidentified schoolmates (AP)

11. He studied philosophy at the Catholic University of Buenos Aires and also has a master’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.

12. He was a teacher of literature, psychology, philosophy and theology before becoming the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

13. He is the co-author of “Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra (On Heaven and Earth)”, which can be purchased for Kindle.

14. He was previously Archbishop of Buenos Aires, from 1998 to 2013. He was known during this time to try and set an example for others, eschewing the extravagant robes of his position for the humble robes of a simple priest.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, centre, speaking with a passanger during a travel in metro in Buenos Aires (Ediciones B/EPA)

15. He used public transport rather than taxis or a chauffeured car to get around and lived in a small flat with an older priest and made all his own meals, despite having access to the Archbishop’s quarters and a chef.

16. He was made a Cardinal by John Paul II in 2001.

17. During the 2005 conclave in which he was runner up, he was reportedly the victim of a smear campaign by other, more liberal members of the Jesuit order, who claimed that he never smiled.

18. He travelled to the conclave in Rome on an economy flight.

19. Francis is the first non-European pope since Gregory III, who was born in modern-day Syria and elected in 731.

20. He is apparently not Francis I but Pope Francis. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi explains: “It will become Francis I after we have a Francis II.” Pope John Paul I, the last pope to affix a ‘I’, decided to attach it himself.

Latest endeavour of the Pope is an invitation to engaged couple to attend a special meeting with him on St Valentine’s Day.  How human and lovely is that?!!!


The Other John

Pope John 23

Pope John 23

Pope John XXIII is due to be officially made into a saint by the 8th of December 2013, at the same time as Pope John Paul II.



I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart.
Pope John Xxiii


“Consult not your fears but your
hopes and your dreams. Think
not about your frustrations, but
about your unfulfilled
potential. Concern yourself not
with what you tried and failed
in, but with what it is still
possible for you to do.”
-Pope John XXIII

Saint John Paul The Great (Pope Paul II)

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
– St John Paul The Great

Saint John Paul The Great (Pope Paul II)

Darkness can only be scattered by light, hatred can only be conquered by love.
– St John Paul The Great

Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.  Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.
– St John Paul The Great

Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say.
– St John Paul The Great

the distinctive mark of the Christian,today more than ever, must be love for the poor, the weak, the suffering.
– St John Paul The Great

The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.
– St John Paul the Great

John Paul II was canonised on 27 April 2014, alongside Pope John XXIII.  He’s now known as Pope Saints John Paul II or Saints John Paul the Great.

He made history during his term:

  • He was the second longest serving pope in modern history (The longest was Pope Pius IX)

; he reigned for 27 years.

  • He was the first non-Italian pope since 1523.
  • He helped end communist ruling in his home country, Poland.
  • He’s one of the most well travelled world leaders.

Pope Saint John Paul II Born Karol Józef Wojtyła

I still remember when Pope John Paul II first came to the Philippines in 1981. I was in college then but we were asked to line up Roxas Boulevard and wait for the Pope’s arrival. We were advised to shout Totus Tuus to the Pope.  They actually did not tell us what it meant. But we said it anyway with so much gusto. Totus Tuus means Totally Yours, which was the motto of Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II was much beloved in the Philippines.  In February of 1981, he beatified Lorenzo Ruiz, who became our very first Filipino saint.  The beatification was attended by the thousands in Luneta.


3rd July 2013

Apparently the saintly Pope is officially being made into a saint. They reckon that he will be a saint before the end of the year. He will be canonized at the same time as John XXIII (23), the good pope.

Pope Francis has to give his final approval.

New Pope Elected

At 6.19 pm (7.19pm) white smoke issued from the most watched chimney in the world verified by the chiming bells of St Peters.

Whitse smoke fro St Peters Rome signifies a new Pope has been chosen

Whits smoke from the chimney on  St Peters, Rome signifies a new Pope has been chosen

Just over 24 hours when the college of cardinals conclave convened; 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide have a new spiritual leader.

At  6.48 pm (7.48) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI appears on the balcony.

 at 7.15 (8.15) pm Jean-Louis Tauran announces the fateful words “Habemus Papam”, or “We have a Pope”

7.20 (8.20)pm Cardinal  Bergoglio  the 76-year-old Archbishop(he became Cardinal in 2001) of Buenos Aires is named as the new Pope

His name will be Pope Francis I

He is from Argentine of Italian parentage. A Cardinal said  The church will be blessed. He is known to be a conservative, spiritual, humble and will look to be a reformer

Not since 741 has a Pope has been chosen ouside of Europe

He is 76 and lost a lung as a child

A river of humanity streams around St Peters wanting to be near the new Pope

 At 7.35 (8.35)pm  The curtains to the balcony part  & open, Pope Francis I, clad in white, appears on the balcony of St Peter’s before the mass of humanity below . He speaks, makes a small joke and asks the crowd to pray for hime  He then blesses the screaming crowd and worldwide Christians.


Pope Francis I

Pope Francis I

Good luck and God bless the new pope, Pope Francis I.


Rome conclave: Cardinals set to elect new Pope

In about three days  we may have a new POPE!!!


12 March 2013 Last updated at 11:31

The cardinals have been seeking divine guidance for the choice ahead

Cardinals gathered in Rome to elect the new Pope will begin voting later, with no clear frontrunner to take over as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The 115 cardinal-electors have attended a special Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.

This afternoon they will process into the Sistine Chapel to begin their secret deliberations. They will vote four times daily until two-thirds can agree on a candidate.

The election was prompted by the surprise abdication of Benedict XVI.

The 85-year-old stepped down last month saying he was no longer strong enough to lead the church, which is beset by problems ranging from a worldwide scandal over sexual abuse to allegations of corruption at the Vatican bank.

Benedict’s resignation and the recent damage to the Church’s reputation make the choice of the cardinal-electors especially hard to predict, the BBC’s James Robbins in Rome says.

Conclave interactive video

Philippa Thomas presenting conclave interactive video

Step inside our virtual Sistine Chapel as Philippa Thomas explains the process to elect a new Pope

They will weigh pressure for a powerful manager to reform the Vatican against calls for a new Pope able to inspire the faithful, our correspondent adds.

Strict secrecy

At Tuesday morning’s “Mass for the Election of the Supreme Pontiff” in St Peter’s Basilica the cardinals sought divine guidance for the election ahead.

In his homily, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano praised the “brilliant pontificate” of Pope Benedict and implored God to grant another “Good Shepherd” to lead the church.

He outlined the mission Catholics believe was given by Jesus Christ to St Peter – the first Pope – emphasising love and sacrifice, evangelization and the unity of the church.

The BBC’s Michael Hirst in Rome says the speech was more measured in tone than the address given in 2005 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict, which featured a fiery attack on the “dictatorship of relativism”.

In the afternoon, 115 cardinal-electors – all under 80, as those over 80 are excluded – will proceed into the Sistine Chapel for the secret conclave to select Benedict’s successor.

Once they have taken an oath of secrecy, Msgr Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies, will call out the words “Extra omnes” – “Everybody out” – and the chapel doors will be locked to outsiders.

On Tuesday morning several cardinals took to Twitter to say goodbye to their followers before being cut off from the outside world.

“Last tweet before the conclave: May Our Father hear and answer with love and mercy all prayers and sacrifices offered for a fruitful outcome,” South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier tweeted.

Jamming devices in the Sistine Chapel should block all electronic communication and anyone tweeting would in any case risk being excommunicated.

Benedict – now known as Pope emeritus – resigned on 28 February after eight years in office, citing ill health. He was the first Pope in six centuries to do so.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in 2005 he was the marked favourite ahead of the conclave and was elected pope after just four rounds of voting.

The vote for his successor is expected to take much longer.

After 10 general congregations open to all cardinals, regardless of age – at which 160 cardinals spoke of the issues facing the church and the qualities needed by its next leader – no clear frontrunner has emerged.

“Last time around there was a man of stature, three or four times that of any other cardinal,” French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin told reporters, according to Reuters news agency.

“That is not the case this time around. Therefore, the choice has to be made among one, two, three, four… a dozen candidates.

“We still don’t really know anything. We will have to wait for the results of the first ballot.”

Candidates named as contenders include Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Brazil’s Odilo Scherer, and the US Cardinal Timothy Dolan – though he told one interviewer anyone who thought he was in with a chance might be “smoking marijuana”.

Once inside the Sistine Chapel, cardinals will listen to a meditation by elderly Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech before holding a first vote, after which their ballot papers will be burned.

The smoke that will drift out of the chapel’s chimney early in the evening is likely to be black – meaning no Pope has been elected.

From Wednesday, two votes will be held each morning and afternoon – with ballots burned after each session – until one candidate attains a two-thirds majority (77 votes).

Then the smoke will be white, meaning the 266th bishop of Rome will have been chosen.

Conclave in numbers

  • 115 cardinal-electors
  • Two-thirds – or 77 – need to agree on papal candidate
  • Four votes per day, two in the morning and two in the evening
  • Chosen candidate will be 266th Pope
  • He will lead world’s 1.2 billion Catholics

The Pope’s new clothes

Family-owned tailors already has his robes ready

Gammarelli has served hundreds of cardinals and Popes since 1798

The Pope’s new clothes


Annibale Gammarelli stands outside his family's tailor shop next to a display window showcasing Papal clothes (Reuters)

Annibale Gammarelli stands outside his family’s tailor shop next to a display window showcasing Papal clothes (Reuters)


While the world waits for the election of the new Pope the Vatican’s official tailor shop has already prepared – by making three sets of the famous robes.

Although the Cardinals have yet to meet in the Sistine Chapel to elect the new Pope the family-owned Gammarelli tailor shop, which has dressed each Pope for more than two centuries, has already stocked the white and red uniform.

One of the three sets of robes on display in the Italian shop will be the one the new Pope wears when he appears on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in front of millions of people for the first time.

A white silk skullcap, known as a “zucchetto”, a white sash with golden fringes and red leather shoes were displayed on a bed of red cloth in the window.

A white Papal skull cap and red loafers are seen in the display window of the Gammarelli tailor shop in Rome ( …

Tradition dictates that three versions of the same robes will be made in advance for the new Pope, whatever his size.

Once the white smoke has appeared from the Sistine Chapel, signifying that a Pope has been chosen, nuns at the Vatican make last-minute alterations to the robes that are the closest fit before the Pope makes his first public entrance.

Gammarelli, behind the Pantheon in central Rome, has served hundreds of cardinals and Popes since 1798. Pope Pius XII was an exception: he used his family tailor.

Pope Benedict XVI officially resigned on February 28 after eight years as head of the Catholic Church. A new Pope is due to be elected in time to preside over Easter celebrations.

The Cardinals Vying for Pope

Papal conclave: Runners and riders


Possible Pontiffs from the probables, Pope Benedict XVI’s successor, will be chosen by 115 cardinal-electors (College)  during a secret election – known as a Conclave – in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. The conclave will commece on Tuesday 12 march, 2013. The Cardinals will be locked in the Sistine Chapel to debate and vote and elect the new Pope. A puff of white smoke from the chapel chimney will signify that a new Pope has been chosen to be Totus Tuus.

As a Christian embracing Catholic and Anglican beliefs I am like many millions  curious to see how the Curia (Vatican adminstration) will work with a new Pope hurriedly elected and installed, particularly after the contoversy and criticism heaped upon the Catholic Church regarding abuse and corruption(at the centre). The new pope will have to be strong enough to address these matters and direct the Church more in the 21 Century with issues such as birth control. Will the  majority of Cardinals want to usher in a new era with a new broom as it were to sweep away some old traditions, or keep the status quo with a papal light hand on the tiller with slow if any major changes as there are still many traditionalists within the Church?

The radical changes as seen by many in the Anglican Church (Women Priests, proposed female  Bishops) over the last decade, have seen deep rifts and some CoE congregations and priests transferring and joining the Catholic Church.

Last week the BBC ‘threw a new mitre into the ring’ with  Cardinal Luis Tagle of the Philippines a possible new front runner. Will the Church again look outside Italy to elect an non Italian, realising the importance of emerging Catholic nations in Africa and S.E. Asia.

Here is BBC report

By Mike Wooldridge & Michael Hirst BBC News, London

Cardinals during Mass in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 6 November 2010
Cardinals are cocooned in the Vatican during the secret voting process

Canon Law states that any male who has been baptised is eligible to be elected, but since the late 14th Century the Pope has come from this body of Princes of the Church.

A post once almost exclusively held by Italians has most recently been filled by a Pole and a German, so the race is open, although the composition of the electors offers clues to who might be a frontrunner for the papacy – or papabile.

A two-thirds-plus-one vote majority is required, meaning the man elected is likely to be a compromise candidate. Sixty-seven of the electors were appointed by Benedict XVI, and 48 by his predecessor John Paul II.

About half the cardinal-electors (60) are European – 21 of those being Italian – and many have worked for the administrative body of the Church, the Curia, in Rome.

Thus, a candidate’s credentials will be bolstered if he has Curial experience and affinity with Europe – a working knowledge of Italian is seen as a prerequisite.

But there is also speculation the new pontiff may come from one of the Church’s growth areas – 42% of the world’s 1.2bn Catholics come from Latin America, as do a sixth of the electors.

Here is a selection of the leading papabili.

Angelo Scola, Italy

Angelo Scola

Cardinal Angelo Scola, 71, is the most prominent Italian candidate and has been referred to by one Catholic newspaper as the “crown prince of Catholicism”.

A cardinal since 2003, he was appointed Archbishop of Milan in 2011. Cardinal Scola is a conservative, who has been close to both John Paul II and Pope Benedict, both personally and theologically.

In 2010, at the height of sex abuse allegations against the church, he called the media’s attacks on the Pope “an iniquitous humiliation”.

Given Pope Benedict’s reasons for resigning, however, it is possible his relatively advanced age may stand against him.

Marc Ouellet, Canada

Marc Ouellet

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, 68, from Canada, has headed the Congregation for Bishops since 2010 and has strong Curial connections.

A native French speaker who also speaks fluent Spanish, he has spent much of his life since ordination as a seminary professor and rector, spending 10 years in Colombia and nine in Canada before being appointed to teach at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in 1997.

A former editor of Communio, an international journal co-founded by Joseph Ratzinger, his thinking is closely linked with that of the resigning Pope. He also has close connections with the Latin American Church.

After a brief stint as vice-president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, he was named Archbishop of Quebec in 2002 and appointed a cardinal in 2005. Since then, he has stoked controversy by speaking out on moral issues in Canada’s largely secular society.

Gianfranco Ravasi, Italy

Gianfranco Ravasi

Cardinal Ravasi, 70, has been the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture – or the Vatican’s culture minister – for the past five years and so has strong Curial and academic credentials.

His biblical scholarship has helped him popularise Scripture studies through Italian television, radio and popular magazines.

Some might see this as a disadvantage if electors seek to promote a pastor rather than a professor

Before he moved to Rome he was a professor and director of the Ambrosian Library in his native Milan – a highly-regarded hub of theological scholarship.

A European intellectual seen as a “moderate” ecclesiologic­ally, he is perhaps seen as lacking global experience.

But he was chosen by the Pope to lead the six-day traditional Lenten retreat inside the Apostolic Palace, during which he was scathing about the “divisions, dissent, careerism and jealousies” that afflict Vatican bureaucracy.

Benedict XVI complimented his “brilliant” preaching, sent him a personal thank you letter and invited him for a private audience.

Christoph Schoenborn, Austria

Christoper Schoenborn

Cardinal Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, is probably the strongest non-Italian candidate from within Europe.

The son of a Bohemian count, he was born in 1945 to a family with a long history of high office in the Catholic church and the Holy Roman Empire.

He was made a cardinal in 1998 and, although seen as intellectually conservative, in 2010 he caused controversy by suggesting it was time to re-examine the issue of priestly celibacy.

Cardinal Schoenborn later issued a clarification, saying he was not “seeking to question the Catholic Church’s celibacy rule”.

Odilo Scherer, Brazil

Odilo Scherer

The archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer, 63, is the most prominent Latin American candidate.

While head of the largest diocese in the world’s largest Catholic country, Brazil, Cardinal Scherer has also gained considerable Vatican credentials.

He obtained his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and worked at the Congregation for Bishops there.

He has been seen as a compromise candidate who could satisfy both European and Latin American congregations. On the other hand, the 63-year-old German-Brazilian has not been able to reverse a marked downward trend in the number of Catholics in Latin America.

Leonardo Sandri, Argentina

Leonardo Sandri

Cardinal Sandri, 63, was born in Buenos Aires in Argentina to Italian parents.

He became a papal diplomat after ordination and served as apostolic nuncio to Venezuela and Mexico.

Between 2000 and 2007 he was third-in-command at the Vatican, serving as its chief of staff.

Towards the end of John Paul II’s papacy, he became the ailing pope’s spokesman, and it was Cardinal Sandri who delivered the announcement of the Pope’s death in St Peter’s Square 2005.

He now heads the Vatican department for Eastern Churches.

Peter Turkson, Ghana

Peter Turkson

Born in western Ghana in October 1948 to a Methodist mother and a Catholic father, Peter Turkson became the first-ever Ghanaian cardinal in 2003 when he was appointed by Pope John Paul II.

The 64-year-old is the relator, or general secretary, of the Synod for Africa, making him a strong candidate to become the first African pope of the modern age, taking on a mantle that was held during the 2005 Conclave by Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze.

The last two Popes both served as relators for a synod of bishops.

Cardinal Turkson is also the head of Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, which released a document in 2011 calling for radical economic reforms to deal with the global recession.

The document condemned the “idolatry of the market”, and Cardinal Turkson expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

Theologically, he is seen as a moderate, signalling openness, for example, to the argument that condoms might be appropriate for couples where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not.

In a BBC interview on Monday, Cardinal Turkson side-stepped a question about whether he could be the next pontiff.

Luis Tagle, Philippines

Luis Tagle

At 55, Luis Tagle is one of the youngest papabili or potential candidates.

He is archbishop of the Philippines’ capital city, Manila – a 2.8 million-strong archdiocese, and he was made a cardinal only a few months ago, in November 2012.

Cardinal Tagle has gained a reputation as a man of the people – as bishop, he is once said to have ridden a cheap bicycle to a run-down neighbourhood in Manila, to deputise for a sick colleague.

He’s also known for inviting beggars outside his cathedral to share a meal with him. Tagle is one of the more media-savvy cardinals. He is a frequent broadcaster in the Philippines and has a presence on Facebook.

Joao Braz de Aviz, Brazil

Joao Braz de Aviz

The 65-year-old from Brazil has had his reputation bolstered since taking over as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in 2011.

One of eight children, he was born in Mafra, Santa Catarina, and completed his theological studies at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian and Pontifical Lateran Universities.

As a young parish priest in Brazil he was caught in the cross-fire of an armed robbery, with bullets perforating his lungs, intestines and an eye: some bullet fragments remain lodged in his body.

Having been made a bishop in 1994 he was appointed archbishop of Brasilia in 2004 and in May 2010 he organised the XVI National Eucharistic Congress to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the city.

He has focused on the welfare of the poor as espoused by the Liberation Theology popular in Latin America. But he distances itself from its ideological “excesses”, saying it almost caused him to abandon his vocation.

Timothy Dolan, United States

Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Dolan, 62, from the United States, is the archbishop of the influential New York archdiocese.

He has extensive pastoral experience, having headed the Milwaukee diocese before that.

An affable character who has also ably led the US conference of Catholic bishops, he also has strong theological credentials with a PhD in Church History and spent in Rome both as a student and as rector of the North American College.

However, the very fact that he is American may stand in his way – cardinals are generally seen as reluctant to promote figures from a perceived super power state.


As a Catholic, who do you think is the best candidate to lead the Church?


Pope Benedict XVI Bids Farewell for the Last Time

Pope Benedict XVI left the papal seat vacant, first in 600 years.

Pope Benedict XVI left the papal seat vacant, first in 600 years.

Pope, in final message, says he’s a simple pilgrim

By NICOLE WINFIELD and FRANCES D’EMILIO | Associated Press – 57 mins ago

  • Pope Benedict XVI greets faithful from his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, the scenic town where Pope Benedict XVI will spend his first post-Vatican days and made his last public blessing as pope,Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

    Associated Press/Luca Bruno – Pope Benedict XVI greets faithful from his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, the scenic town where Pope Benedict XVI will spend his first post-Vatican days and made his last …more 

  • Play Video

    Benedict XVI Bids Catholics Final Farewell As Pope


  • Play Video

    Local Catholics bid farewell to Pope Benedict XVI


CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) — Benedict XVI greeted the faithful for the last time as pope on Thursday, telling tearful well-wishers that he is beginning the final stage of his life as “simply a pilgrim,” hours before he becomes the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

The pope’s journey into retirement began with an emotion-drenched sendoff from the Vatican, with Swiss Guards in full regalia standing in attention and prelates kneeling to kiss the papal ring — Benedict’s closest aide weeping by his side.

Bells tolled as the pope left the Vatican by helicopter and circled St. Peter’s Square, where banners reading “Thank You” were held up skyward for him to see. The bells tolled anew as he arrived in Castel Gandolfo, whose central piazza was jammed with people eager to catch the last glimpse of Benedict as pope.

His arms raised, the aging Benedict appeared at the balcony of the palazzo where he will spend the first few months of his retirement. The crowds cheering wildly, he said he was happy to be “surrounded by the beauty of creation” on this unique day.

As of 8 p.m., he said to applause, he would no longer be pope.

“I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth,” Benedict said, as well-wishers wiped tears from their eyes.

Benedict, 85, reached out to the wider world electronically, sending a final tweet from his Twitter account, (at)Pontifex, shortly before his departure from the Vatican: “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”

The day began with Benedict’s final audience with his cardinals, where he pledged his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor, a poignant and powerful message to close out his eight-year pontificate.

In an unexpected address inside the Vatican’s frescoed Clementine Hall, the pope appeared to be trying to defuse concerns about his future role and the possible conflicts arising from the peculiar situation of having both a reigning pope and a retired one.

Benedict also gave a final set of instructions to the “princes” of the church who will elect his successor, urging them to be united as they huddle to choose the 266th leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

“May the College of Cardinals work like an orchestra, where diversity — an expression of the universal church — always works toward a higher and harmonious agreement,” he said.

It was seen as a clear reference to the deep internal divisions that have come to the fore in recent months following the leaks of sensitive Vatican documents that exposed power struggles and allegations of corruption inside the Vatican.

The audience inside the Apostolic Palace was as unique as Benedict’s decision to quit, with the pope, wearing his crimson velvet cape and using a cane, bidding farewell to his closest advisers and the cardinals themselves bowing to kiss his fisherman’s ring for the last time.

Some seemed to choke up at that moment, and a few lingered on to chat with the pope for as long as they could. But the scene seemed otherwise almost normal, with cardinals chatting on the sidelines waiting their turn to say goodbye.

Benedict said he would pray for the cardinals in coming days as they discuss the issues facing the church, the qualities needed in a new pope, and as they prepare to enter into the secret conclave to elect him.

“Among you is also the future pope, whom I today promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,” Benedict told the cardinals.

Benedict’s decision to live at the Vatican in retirement, be called “emeritus pope” and “Your Holiness” and wear the white cassock associated with the papacy has deepened concerns about the shadow he might cast over the next papacy.

But Benedict has tried to address those worries over the past two weeks, saying that once retired he would be “hidden from the world” and living a life of prayer.

In his final speech in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, he said he wasn’t returning to private life exactly, but rather to a new form of service to the church through prayer.

And on Thursday he went even further with his own public pledge of obedience to the new pontiff.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope’s pledge was in keeping with this effort to “explain how he intends to live this unprecedented situation of an emeritus pope.”

“He has no intention of interfering in the position or the decisions or the activity of his successor,” Lombardi said. “But as every member of the church, he says fully that he recognizes the authority of the supreme pastor of the church who will be elected to succeed him.”

The issue of papal obedience is important for Benedict. In his last legal document, he made new provisions for cardinals to make a formal, public pledge of obedience to the new pope at his installation Mass, in addition to the private one they traditionally make inside the Sistine Chapel immediately after he is elected.

Benedict’s resignation will be a moment of quiet theater.

At 8 p.m. sharp, the Swiss Guards standing at attention at Castel Gandolfo will go into the palazzo and shut the doors behind them and go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church over — for now.

Lombardi said the guards would change into civilian clothes and return to the Vatican barracks Thursday night. They will continue to guard the entrances of Vatican City and the pope’s palace, “even if he’s not there,” said Cpl. Urs Breitenmoser, a Swiss Guard spokesman.

And on Monday, the cardinals are expected to begin meeting to set the date for the conclave.

Benedict’s decision has been met for the most part with praise and understanding. Cardinals, Vatican officials and ordinary Catholics have rallied around him in acknowledgment of his frail state and the church’s need for a strong leader.

But Sydney Cardinal George Pell has caused a stir by openly saying the resignation has been “slightly destabilizing” for the church.

In an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp., Pell noted that Benedict himself had acknowledged the shift in tradition; Benedict said Wednesday that he appreciated his decision was not only serious but “a novelty” for the church.

Pell also said the church was in sore need of a strong manager — comments echoed by several cardinals who have noted the 30-year reign of two popes who paid scant attention to the internal governance of the church.

The Vatican tried to downplay Pell’s comments, saying it wouldn’t respond to individual cardinals and urging the media not to take advantage of churchmen who, it said, aren’t necessarily media savvy.


Winfield reported from Vatican City.


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