The pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. has come to an end. The period of the Sede Vacante (“empty chair”) has officially begun on Thursday 8:00 p.m., and ends with the election of a new Pope.
At exactly 8:00 pm, the door of the Papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, 30 kilometres south of Rome, whereto Benedict had retired on Friday, was closed. Benedict XVI. is now an Emeritus Pope. The Swiss Guard withdrew from Castel Gandolfo. Their mission is to protect the reigning Pope.
At the same time the Cardinal Chamberlain (Camerlengo) of the Roman Church, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone (78), sealed Benedict XVI’s apartment, on the third floor of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, and the elevator that leads there. It is the same ceremony as after the death of a Pope. The rooms remain closed until the election of a successor. Also Benedict’s fisherman’s ring has no function anymore.
“I am only a pilgrim”
Benedict is the first Pope of modern times who resigned from his post.It has yet not been determined When his successor will be chosen. In many countries, there where held commemoration services, for the farewell of the Pope.
As the last public act of his pontificate, Benedict appeared at 5:38 pm on the Loggia of the Palace in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome and greeted the faithful gathered there. He spread the arms and was celebrated with loud cheers, “Benedetto” calls and colorful banners. “I am no Pope any longer, I am simply a pilgrim”, he said, blessing the faithful. And then: “Good night.”
At 8:00 pm, the portal of the residence was closed as a symbolic sign of the end of the pontificate. Once again there were “Viva il Papa” calls and all bells were rung in Castel Gandolfo.
Farewell at the Vatican
Shortly before 5:00 P.m., the Holy Father had left his apartment in the Apostolic Palace and go into the Damasus Courtyard. There, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and his staff said good bye. A huge guard of honor of the Papal Swiss Guard was there to honour Benedict. The smiling Pope who seemed to be in good shape, said good bye to the Cardinals of the Curia, the Bishops and his closest colleagues. Several officials of the Vatican had tears in their eyes.
“Grazie, God bless”
In St. Peter’s square, several thousand worshippers had gathered, to watch the departure of the Pope on large screens. At the heliport there was a banner saying: “Grazie, God bless”. At the take-off of the helicopter, the bells of all the churches of the eternal city were rung, as a sign of farewell and recognition for the Pope, who is also the Bishop of Rome.
Before departure, Benedict XVI took farewell of the Cardinals present at the Vatican. “The future Pope is among you, whom I promise my unconditional obedience and reverence”, he said in the magnificent Sala Clementina in the Apostolic Palace. “May the Lord reveal the one he chose”, he added. After that, Benedict XVI blessed the 144 Cardinals and some other clergy, then said goodbye to everyone personally. Many took off their headgear and kissed the Papal ring.