On Thursday, the Fisherman’s Throne in the Vatican was vacant as of 20.00 CET (11.00 PST. 14.00 EST. 19.00 UTC. 23.00 MSK. 06.00 1 March AEST), after Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger left the Apostolic Palace, heading for the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo. Earlier on Thursday, he addressed all the cardinals in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, giving them a blessing and shaking hands. Benedict also bid his followers farewell on Thursday in the last message on his Twitter account, which he later closed, texting, “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives”.
Benedict, who became the 265th Pope of Rome in 2005 following his predecessor John Paul II Wojtyła’s death, announced his resignation due to old age and failing health on 11 February. The last pope to step down voluntarily was Gregory XII Corraro in 1415. Earlier, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that the conclave to elect a successor to Benedict could begin before 15 March if all the cardinals were present in Rome. Under church rules, the conclave should begin between 15 to 20 days after the papacy becomes vacant, to give cardinals time to get to Rome.
28 February 2013