Pope Benedict XVI, a shy and sensitive man who never seemed fully at home as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has officially resigned the papacy.
His nearly eight-year reign as Pope ends today.
Benedict, 85, is the first Pope to resign in more than 600 years. In his wake lies a hierarchy facing scandal, intrigue and many unanswered questions.
Even as he met with cardinals on his final day as pope, pledging “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor, the discord was apparent.
Benedict urged the cardinals to “work like an orchestra” harmonizing for the good of the Catholic church, but that will be a difficult task to put it mildly.
On Thursday, the Vatican confirmed media reports that it had ordered wiretaps on phones of some Vatican officials as part of a leaks investigation.
Other cardinals were increasingly outspoken about the crisis of governance during Benedict’s papacy, which was a turbulent period by any measure.
That failing is expected to be much in the cardinals’ minds as they begin meeting informally to discuss the state of the papacy and the start of the conclave.
The conclave is when his successor will be chosen.
Earlier this week, Benedict changed church law to allow cardinals to start the conclave before the usual 15-day waiting period after the papacy is vacant.
In his final blessing to the faithful, who gathered outside the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Benedict appeared tired, and even relieved.
“I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth,” his eminence said, opting for a short farewell on his final day as Pope.
“Good night, and thank you,” he said in Italian.