Today is the final day in the reign of Pope Benedict XVI. As this is being written, less than three hours remain by Benedict’s own declaration, before his papacy ends and the sede vacante and interregnum will begin. The Holy Father has met with many of the cardinals who have already arrived in Rome, gave a brief address, and posed for a photograph. Benedict departed the Vatican after meeting with other members of the Roman Curia at shortly after 5:00 pm Rome time, or 11:00 am Eastern time.
In his remarks, Benedict called on the cardinals, outgoing members of the Roman Curia, his brother bishops and the faithful around the world to be obedient and loyal to his successor, and he himself pledged obedience to the as yet unelected new Successor of Peter. As the Pope left Rome for the final time, all of the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out beginning at 5:05 pm, and they continue ringing as this writer writes this story. The Holy Father’s final two Tweets as Pope were a little catechesis and witness for Christ. Benedict wrote: “If only everyone could experience the joy of being Christian, being loved by God who gave his Son for us!” and “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives.”