Vatican officials said 50,000 tickets had been handed out for Benedict’s final general audience — but tens of thousands more are expected to witness the historic moment in person. Although they have been quiet about it, conservative Roman Catholics have reservations about Pope Benedict XVI’s impending departure completely unrelated to their sadness at losing a pastor they admire.
It is about to become the world’s most famous retirement home, its occupant the world’s most famous retiree. The 85-year-old says he is stepping down because he is too tired and weak to continue with the role, with all that it involves in the modern world. Although a papal resignation is provided for in church law, Benedict’s decision undermines the mystique of papal uniqueness. Today, Pope Benedict XVI makes his last visit to St. Peter’s Square as depicted in the live video.
For those lucky enough to have tickets can watch from seats as the pope is driven around the square in his Pope mobile to meet the faithful before he speaks from a balcony. Others will be packed around the edges of the square and surrounding side streets, hoping to catch a final glimpse of the pontiff in the flesh. Workers are renovating a former nunnery in the Vatican to house the retired pope. How he will interact with his future successor remains uncertain.
As CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey has reported, Benedict has seemed increasingly at ease with his transition into retirement, but he will leave in his wake a Vatican beset by scandal. His successor will have to figure out how to deal with deeply rooted management problems at the top of the Church, infighting between various factions in its governing body, and the lingering effects of the child sex abuse scandal.
He will meet with the cardinals Wednesday and Thursday before being flown by helicopter to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. There, from a balcony, he will greet the crowds one last time before his resignation takes effect and the Swiss Guards, who by tradition protect the pope, ceremonially leave the residence’s gate.
There, from a balcony, he will greet the crowds one last time before his resignation takes effect and the Swiss Guards, who by tradition protect the pope, ceremonially leave the residence’s gate.
Given the challenges facing the Church, Pizzey says the world’s cardinals want to begin the job of choosing a new pope as soon as possible, according to a well-placed Vatican source, and the newest guessing game in Vatican City is how soon the conclave will begin. By both law and tradition, the cardinals can’t talk openly about it until one day after Benedict officially leaves office.
“We build the image by accepting the reality that we’re living in, and not being angry, and not being defensive.”
Granted that there is only one actual pope at a time (and only one who can make infallible pronouncements on matters of faith and morals), the existence of two men who are addressed as “your holiness” changes the ecclesiastical atmospherics. For a lot of traditionalist Catholics, two “popes” (even if one is emeritus) is one pope too many.
He will keep the papal title Benedict XVI, rather than reverting to the name Joseph Ratzinger, and will be referred to as “his holiness,” Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.
He will also go by the title his holiness “Pontiff emeritus” or “Pope emeritus.”
The cardinals will then decide exactly when to hold the conclave, during which they vote for the new pontiff. The penalty for anyone involved in the conclave that breaks the oath of secrecy, including technicians and even housekeepers, used to be decided by the new pope.