Pope Benedict XVI Presides over Final Public Mass, Calls for Christian Unity
Holy Father will retire to a monastery.
Pope Benedict addressed religious hypocrisy and divisions within the church during his last public mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday. His final mass ended with applause and praise as the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion people plans to resign at the end of the month, citing infirmity.
The 85-year-old pontiff cut the applause short, in a gesture that demonstrated true humility and devotion to God, asking the congregation, "Let's return to prayer," just before leaving the basilica.
Thousands have flocked to the Vatican to give their well wishes to Benedict, who said he is resigning for the good of the Church. He asked the crowd to "keep praying for me, for the Church, and for the future pope."
Benedict also reported feeling buoyed by the tremendous outpouring of love which he has experienced the past several days.
Benedict XVI will be only the second pope in history to resign and will step down on February 28. The Papal interregnum will last about two weeks, with the cardinals of the Church meeting on March 15 to elect a new pope.
It is unknown how long the process will take. However, most expectations are that the Church will have a new Pope by Holy Week.
According to pundits, there are several likely candidates, although the leading candidate appears to be a Cardinal from Ghana, Peter Appiah Turkson, 64. If elected Turkson would be the fourth African pope in Church history. The Catholic Church has enjoyed explosive growth in Africa in recent years.
However, a number of other candidates have been touted as possibilities including one Canadian and several from Latin America.
For his part, Benedict says he will not interfere in the affairs of the next pope. He will return to being known as Joseph Ratzinger and spend his well-deserved retirement in prayer, residing at a monastery within Vatican City.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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