Pope Benedict XVI ends his papacy

Pope Benedict XVI ends his papacy
# 01 March 2013 02:52 (UTC +04:00)

The pontiff, aged 85, stepped down at 8 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Thursday after nearly eight years in office, the first pontiff to do so in six centuries. He will be known as Benedict XVI, pope emeritus, from now on.

The landmark resignation took effect three hours after the pope left the Vatican and flew by helicopter to his retreat at Castel Gandolfo, a summer residence south of Rome.

A crowd of well-wishers stood before the gates of the Castel Gandolfo residence as the Swiss Guards, the soldiers who traditionally protect the pope, saluted and closed the doors of the palazzo on the stroke of 8 p.m. symbolically closing out the papacy.

The Swiss Guards have now gone off duty, and the protection of Benedict has been taken over by Vatican police.

Addressing the cheering crowd from a window at the summer retreat, he said that he would soon no longer be the leader of the Catholic Church, rather "a pilgrim who begins the last stop of his pilgrimage."

The crowd shouted back "Long live the pope!"

The German pontiff, who was born Joseph Ratzinger, is expected eventually to retire to a monastery on a hill inside Vatican City.

Benedict’s departure has left the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church vacant while its leading clerics consider who should succeed him.

Over the next few days, cardinals will gather at the Vatican to plan a conclave that will elect his successor.

On February 11, the pope announced his decision to step down since he was no longer able to carry out his duties because of his advanced age.

Citing unnamed sources, a recent report by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, however, said that the pontiff decided to resign after an internal church probe informed him about a series of blackmails, grafts and underground gay sex in the Vatican.

The report stated that three cardinals, including the former chief of the Vatican’s secret services, were asked to verify the allegations of financial impropriety, cronyism and corruption brought up by the publication of confidential papal papers in the scandal dubbed “Vatileaks.”

According to the report, the three cardinals reported their findings to the pope on December 17, 2012, in two red, leather-bound volumes, almost 300-pages long, which revealed the existence of a “network” of gay prelates in the Vatican and contained “an exact map of the mischief and the bad fish” inside the Holy See.

“It was on that day, with those papers on his desk, that Benedict XVI took the decision he had mulled over for so long,” noted the report.

The two-volume dossier has been reportedly consigned to a safe place and would be delivered to Benedict’s successor upon his election, the report added.

The Vatican has refused to deny or confirm the report published by the Italian newspaper.

According to David Gibson, a journalist who wrote the latest biography on Benedict, the Pope's resignation was “most certainly the result of numerous factors, mainly revolving around the internal problems of the Vatican, of which sexual shenanigans were likely one.”

The Vatileaks scandal came to light in January 2012, when a series of the Holy See's internal documents were leaked to Italian media, causing a stir nationwide.

Following the incident, the Italian Journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, also fueled the fire by releasing a book called “His Holiness.”

The book shed light on power struggles in the Vatican by presenting secret documents and confidential letters to and from the Pope and his personal secretary.

In May 2012, Vatican authorities arrested Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s butler, on suspicion of being behind the leaks and charged him with 18 months in jail. However, he was later pardoned.

Other reports also emerged in the Italian media in June 2012, linking the Vatican with Sicilian mafia heads.

The reports came out after the head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was dismissed amid claims of power struggles and corruption within the Holy See.

He had reportedly been under investigation for laundering money for a Mafia godfather. -

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