On Thursday, at 20.00 CET (11.00 PST. 14.00 EST. 19.00 UTC. 23.00 MSK. 06.00 1 March AEST), the Vatican declared a state of sede vacante, which means that the authority of Benedict XVI Ratzinger as the Pope of Rome is now over. An honour guard of Swiss Guards left the pope’s summer residence of Castel Gandolfo near Rome, where Benedict intends to spend the next two months, denoting the termination of his papal authority. Henceforth, Benedict will have the title of “Honorary Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church“, and his personal style will still be “Your Holiness”.
Earlier Thursday, Benedict XVI gave his farewells to the cardinals in the Vatican, thanking them for their support. He admitted that for the nearly eight years of his reign, there were both sublime and unpleasant moments. He promised that he’d pray that the Cardinals would make the right decision in the conclave to choose his successor. Then, Benedict left the Vatican and headed by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo. When he arrived at the residence, believers were there to greet him, to whom he made his last official speech, thanking them for their support, saying, “This day isn’t like any other [in my pontificate]. I’m not going to be the pope any longer; I’ll be a pilgrim, making the last stage of my pilgrimage on earth. This day brought me great joy. With all my heart, prayers, and thoughts, with all my inner strength, I’m ready to serve God. I bless you in the name of the Holy Spirit”.
Benedict intends to settle in a monastery in Vatican City to lead a secluded life. He won’t take part in the Church’s administration, but will devote his time to prayer and contemplation. The conclave to choose Benedict’s successor is due to start in March. However, the former pope won’t take part in it. Amongst the most likely papabili cited by the media are 65-year-old Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana, 67-year-old Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, 80-year-old Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, 77-year-old Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Pietro Evasio Bertone, and 71-year-old Italian Archbishop Angelo Scola of Milano. The last instance of a papal abdication was in 1415 with the resignation of Gregory XII Corraro.
During this period of sede vacante following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger, Catholics throughout the world pray that the Lord would give them a worthy successor to their previous pope. As it states in the guidelines published on the website of the Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, “One should pray daily for the College of Cardinals that, guided by the Holy Spirit, they might recognise the one whom the Lord shall choose as the new successor of the Apostle Peter”. On Friday, Fr Igor Kovalevsky, General Secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, told Interfax-Religion that not only priests, but also ordinary believers, shall offer up such prayers, not just in Russia, but also in other countries. In addition, in the days before and during the conclave, Catholics will serve special Masses for the election of the pope. As reported, the conclave to elect Benedict’s successor will convene in mid-March.
On Friday, EFE reported that Colombian tailor Luis Abel Delgado, who made Benedict XVI’s vestments, received instructions several weeks before the abdication of the pope to sew vestments in three different sizes. According to Señor Delgado, these vestments could be for possible successors of the abdicated pope. He had instructions to prepare three different sizes of mitre and vestments “for tall men of European descent”. At the time of receipt of this request from the Vatican, Delgado didn’t know of Benedict’s plans to abdicate. He also didn’t know the possible names of the people for whom he sewed the vestments.
On Friday, the Vatican announced a meeting of cardinals to prepare for the upcoming conclave would begin on 4 March. The meeting, at which participants would discuss the most important issues of the Church, will fix a date for the conclave. EFE noted that many of the cardinals who’d take part in the conclave are already in Rome.
According to a release from the patriarchal press service, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias praised Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger for his uncompromising stance in matters of faith, and that the patriarch wished him the best of health on the eve of the pope’s retirement. The message of His Holiness to the just-retired Pope of Rome read, “In these special days for you, I’d like to express my feelings of brotherly love in Christ and respect”. Patriarch Kirill said that the decision of the Pope of Rome to leave “in humility and simplicity” announced on 11 February found a “response in the hearts of millions of Catholics. We’ve always been close to your steadfast position, marked by an uncompromising stance in matters of faith and unswerving adherence to the living tradition of the Church. At a time when an ideology of permissiveness and moral relativism is trying to displace moral values in people’s lives, you boldly raised your voice in defence of Gospel ideals, the lofty dignity of man, and his vocation to free himself from sin”.
He fondly recalled his meetings with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before his election to the Roman papacy. According to Patriarch Kirill, in the years of Benedict’s reign, relations between Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholics “took on a vigorous impetus and responded to the need to testify to Christ to the modern world”. His Holiness hoped that “the good and trusting relationship between the Orthodox and Catholics” developed with Benedict’s active participation would progress under his successor. Patriarch Kirill ended, “Please, accept my sincere wishes for good health, long life, and help from above in your prayer and theological works”.
1 March 2013