Print Version    Email to Friend
Final closure on Pope Benedict’s reign

HONG KONG (SE): As the helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI lifts off the ground to take him from Rome to his summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo at 8.00pm on February 28, his tenure as head of the Church will end, his papal ring will be destroyed and he will cease to play any part in its governance.
He will not have any involvement in the conclave to elect his successor, as although he is still a cardinal, and at 85, has passed the eligibility cut-off age. It is also not deemed appropriate.
“The pope will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of the election,” the Vatican press officer, Father Federico Lombardi, explained.
While custom dictates that a conclave should be set somewhere between 15 and 20 days after the Chair of Peter becomes vacant, final arrangements have yet to be announced.
Father Lombardi said that the timeframe is not revealed by God, but is a practical arrangement to allow the cardinals to gather. He added that because they already know they have to come, such a long time may not be necessary.
He also explained that the customary period of eight days mourning for a deceased pope will not be necessary, as Pope Benedict is still alive.
In the interim period between Pope Benedict’s resignation and the election of a new pope, the day-to-day affairs of the Church will be managed by the current and previous secretaries of state, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone and Angelo Cardinal Sodano.
All members of the heads of offices in the Curia are expected to submit their resignations, so that the new pope can begin with a clean slate.
Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca has been named the general auditor of the Apostolic Camera and will manage temporal affairs during the lacuna period.
Meanwhile, tributes to the current pope continue to pour in. British prime minister, David Cameron, said, “He is remembered with great respect and affection. He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions.”
Barack Obama, the president of the United States of America (US), said that he would be remembered in prayer by himself and his wife, Michelle.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, from New York in the US, called it a significant moment for all Catholics as citizens of the world and the chief rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, commented, “During his period as pope, there were the best of relations ever between the Church and the chief rabbinate and we hope that this trend will continue. I think he deserves a lot of credit for advancing interreligious links the world over between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”
AsiaNews reported that young people in Nepal, Christians and non-Christians alike, began exchanging pictures and quotes from Pope Benedict in lieu of red roses and hearts on Valentine Day.
Shilpa Sheresta, who runs a flower shop in Kathmandu, said, “After the pope’s retirement was announced, people began asking for pictures of the Holy Father rather than the usual Valentine gifts.”
Archbishop Joseph Coutts, from Karachi in Pakistan, reflected, “He was supportive of our stance regarding the blasphemy laws and other issues related to the minority Christian community.”
A statement from the Malankara Catholic Church in India thanked him for his role in having its status recognised so easily.
Bishop Joseph Gan Junquiu, from Guangzhou in mainland China, thanked him for his guidance, which although given during a time of great difficulty, made a substantial impact on the suffering Church in his country.
He made special reference to the letter he penned to the Catholic people of China in 2007, saying that it helped to lay the foundation for normalisation in the future.
For his part, Pope Benedict will remain at Castel Gandolfo during the conclave before moving to more permanent quarters. The Vatican advisor for communications, Greg Burke, said that in the coming years he will devote himself to prayer and study. “He is going to live in a monastery and life in a monastery is very quiet,” he told Religious News Service.
His anticipated encyclical, due to be released soon, will apparently not be published.

More from this section