Pope Benedict XVI formally resigns

  • Pope Benedict XVI officially resigned on Thursday, stating he now "will simply be a pilgrim" as he embarks on his last journey on earth.

    Earlier in the day, Benedict, 85, was flown by helicopter from the Vatican to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo, to the south of Rome.

    Benedict stepped down after nearly eight years in office, the first pope to abdicate since Gregory XII in 1415.

    His resignation was marked by the Swiss Guards stepping down from their posts at Castel Gandolfo to return to the Vatican, signifying the end of their service to protect the head of the Catholic church.

    The protection of Benedict has been taken over by Vatican police.

    Benedict will now be known as "pope emeritus" and will retain the title "His Holiness".

    He will also still be known by his papal title of Benedict XVI rather than revert to Joseph Ratzinger and continue to wear his distinctive white cassock but without a cape or trimmings.

    However, he will surrender his gold ring of office, known as the fisherman's ring. His personal seal is also expected to be destroyed in the same way as when a pope dies.

    Benedict will also stop wearing his trademark red loafers, instead choosing to wear brown shoes hand made for him by a Mexican craftsman during a brief visit to Mexico last year.

    The college of cardinals, led by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, is now in charge of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics until a new pope is chosen.

    A successor will be elected in a conclave due to take place from March 4 when the College of Cardinals will meet in general congregations.

    The successor will be chosen by 115 cardinal-electors, who are younger than 80 years old, through ballots held in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.

    A two-thirds-plus-one vote majority is required. 

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