Monday 11


“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” the pontiff told the cardinals and announced that he would be resigning at the end of the month.

The Holy Father made his announcement in Latin from a pre-written text during a morning ordinary public consistory in which a large number of cardinals were present.

Fulfilling the canonical requirement, Pope Benedict solemnly declared to the cardinals, “Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way that, as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter, will be vacant, and a conclave to elect the new supreme pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.”

Before ending his remarks during the consistory, Pope Benedict told the cardinals: “I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry, and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of our supreme pastor, our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore His Holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the cardinal fathers with her maternal solicitude in electing a new supreme pontiff.”


Speaking to reporters after the Pope’s announcement, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said that the pontiff was not ill, but had made the decision because of his declining strength due to his age.

Fr. Lombardi said after the Pope steps down, he will move to the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome. He will stay there until the renovation is completed of a cloister, set up by Blessed John Paul II, which is located inside the Vatican Gardens, he said.

Meeting reporters again Feb. 12, Fr. Lombardi confirmed that Pope Benedict had gone to a private health clinic in Rome about three months ago to have the batteries changed on his pacemaker. It was a simple, routine procedure and had no influence on the Pope’s decision to resign.

Wednesday 13


“I have felt, almost physically in these days — which haven’t been easy for me — the strength that prayers, love for the Church and prayers for me bring me,” the Pope said at his first public appearance after he announced that he would resign at the end of February.

Pope Benedict explained that he had made his decision “in full freedom, for the good of the Church, after having prayed for a long time and having examined my conscience before God, well aware of the seriousness of that act, but also aware of no longer being capable of fulfilling the Petrine ministry with the strength that it requires.”

“Continue to pray for me, for the Church, for the future Pope,” he said in conclusion, drawing an ovation a full minute long.

The rest of the audience proceeded more normally, with Pope Benedict devoting his catechetical talk for Ash Wednesday to the subject of Lent.


Celebrating what was to be the last public liturgy of his pontificate, Benedict XVI preached on the virtues of humility and Christian unity and heard his highest-ranking aide pay tribute to his service to the Church.

Jesus “denounces religious hypocrisy, behavior that wants to show off, attitudes that seek applause and approval,” the Pope said in his homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “The true disciple does not serve himself or the ‘public,’ but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity.”

“For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer,” the Pope said.

The Ash Wednesday liturgy, traditionally held in two churches on Rome’s Aventine Hill, was moved to St. Peter’s to accommodate the greatest possible number of the faithful.

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, voiced gratitude for Pope Benedict’s pontificate of nearly eight years.

Following the cardinal’s remarks, the congregation broke into a standing ovation that lasted well over a minute, ceasing only after the Pope, looking surprised but not displeased, said: “Thank you, let’s return to prayer.”

Benedict XVI’s last homily included a plea for harmony among his flock, as he lamented “blows against the unity of the Church, divisions in the ecclesial body” and called for a “more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalries.” Such communion favors evangelization, the pontiff said, by serving as a “humble and precious sign for those who are distant or indifferent to the faith.”

Thursday 14


In his annual address to clergy of the diocese of Rome, Benedict XVI recalled his experiences as an expert consultant at Vatican II, praising some of its major documents and lamenting widespread distortions of its teachings.

Before the Pope’s talk, the several thousand priests in the Vatican’s audience hall greeted him with a standing ovation and a shout of “Long live the Pope!” Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the vicar of Rome, then read a short tribute to the Pope, likening the occasion to the departure of St. Paul from Ephesus in the Acts of the Apostles.

The cardinal broke into tears as he concluded, telling the Pope, “In the name of all the priests of Rome, who truly love the Pope, that we commit ourselves to pray still for you and for your intentions, so that our grateful love may become, if possible, even greater.”


Archbishop Gänswein and the women (the Memores Domini Association of the Communion and Liberation Movement) will go to Castel Gandolfo with Pope Benedict when he leaves office Feb. 28, and will also move with the pontiff to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, a building in the Vatican Gardens being remodeled for their use, Fr. Lombardi said.

The Vatican spokesman said Archbishop Gänswein will live with Benedict XVI but also serve the new Pope as Prefect of the Papal Household.


After more than six weeks of not being able to accept credit- and debit-card payments in the Vatican Museums and shops, the Vatican announced that it had begun accepting plastic again.

The Vatican said it had signed an agreement with the Switzerland-based Aduno Group, a company that issues credit cards and handles online payments, as well as offering point-of-sale services to businesses wanting to accept credit and debit cards.

Sunday 17


Calling this an unusual time for him and for the Church — but not specifically mentioning his resignation — Benedict XVI thanked people for their affection and asked them to continue their prayers.

A roar of applause rose up from more than 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square as Pope Benedict came to his studio window to lead the Angelus prayer.

As he does every week, he greeted groups of pilgrims in their native tongues. Before leading the Angelus, Pope Benedict commented on the beginning of Lent and the day’s Gospel reading about the temptation of Jesus.


The Holy Father and top officials from the Roman Curia suspended their normal schedules to gather each morning and afternoon in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel for common prayer, Eucharistic adoration and a meditation. Benedict XVI chose Cardinal Ravasi, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, for this year’s weeklong retreat.

The cardinal’s reflections were focused on Ars orandi, ars credendi (the art of praying, the art of believing), looking particularly at “the face of God and the face of man in the Psalm prayers.”

Saturday 23


Vatican officials released an unusual statement Feb. 23 condemning some press coverage of the papal transition.

A communiqué from the Secretariat of State called “deplorable” the “widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories” intended to exert “pressure on the election of the Pope.”

Monday 25


Benedict XVI had accepted Cardinal Keith O’Brien‘s resignation as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Fr. Federico Lombardi told reporters.

Scottish Cardinal O’Brien, 74, announced he would not participate in the conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI’s successor because he did not want media attention focused on him instead of on the election of a new Pope.

Fr. Lombardi said that Cardinal O’Brien, who was required by Church law to offer his resignation before his 75th birthday in March, had presented his letter to the Pope in November. In accepting the resignation, the Pope did not give any order about whether the cardinal could participate in the upcoming conclave to elect his successor, Fr. Lombardi said.

The British newspaper The Observer reported Feb. 23 that three priests and a former priest had accused the cardinal of “inappropriate conduct” with them going back to the 1980s.


In his last week as pontiff, Benedict XVI issued new rules for conclaves.

The Pontiff laid out the new rules in an apostolic letter issued motu proprio (on his own initiative) Feb. 22, the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

The changes affect the rules established in Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic constitution governing the election of Popes, Universi Dominici Gregis.

Tuesday 26


Benedict XVI will continue to be known as Pope Benedict and addressed as “His Holiness,” but after his resignation, he will add the title “emeritus” in one of two acceptable forms, either “pope emeritus” or “Roman pontiff emeritus.”

Pope Benedict will continue to wear a white cassock, but it will be a simplified version of the papal vestment, mainly without the small white cape, and he will leave behind his emblematic red shoes.

Instead, he will wear brown shoes, beginning with loafers he was given as a gift last March during a visit to Leon, Mexico.

The safety of the Pope Emeritus will be ensured by the Vatican police.

Pope Benedict also will give the College of Cardinals his “fisherman’s ring” and seal to be broken, as is usually done upon the death of a Pope. The Pope will go back to wearing an episcopal ring he wore as a cardinal.

The Pope’s @Pontifex Twitter fans received two more tweets before the account went into “hibernation” during the sede vacante period starting when Pope Benedict XVI stepped down.

Vatican Radio said, “@Pontifex will be available for use by the next Pope as he may wish.”

Wednesday 27


Authorities estimated about 130,000 people were in attendance, most of them packed into the square, with some spillover onto the long boulevard in front of the basilica.

The pontiff’s speech paid homage to God — his source of strength — and all the men and women who make up the living body of the Catholic Church.

“I will continue to accompany the path of the Church with prayer and reflection, with that dedication to the Lord and to his bride that I have tried to live every day till now and that I want to live always,” the Pope told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square on the eve of his resignation.

The Holy Father arrived for his last public audience shortly after 10:30 a.m., standing and waving for almost 15 minutes as his white popemobile made a circuit through the square.

Abandoning his usual practice of giving a catechetical talk on a devotional text or theme at public audiences, the Pope spoke about his time as Pope and his historic decision to resign.

The pontiff thanked his collaborators in the Vatican, making special mention of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the cardinals.

The conclusion of the Pope’s talk set off a two-minute standing ovation, which he acknowledged by smiling broadly and standing with outstretched arms.

Thursday 28


Benedict XVI’s final trip as Pope was a 15-minute helicopter ride from the Vatican to the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo.

In the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Rome were dozens of bishops, monsignors, priests, nuns and laypeople who work in the Vatican Secretariat of State and other offices nearby.

As soon as the Pope’s car pulled away, the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica began tolling their farewell.

As soon as he arrived at Castel Gandolfo and entered the residence, the Pope went upstairs and, standing on the balcony overlooking the main square, greeted the crowd.

“I am a simple pilgrim who begins the last stage of his pilgrimage on this earth,” he told them. “But with all my heart, with all my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, with all my interior strength, I still want to work for the common good and the good of the Church and humanity,” he told them.

Just after 8 p.m., when Pope Benedict’s papacy officially ended, two Swiss Guards moved inside; the guard carrying the medieval halberd hung up the weapon, and they closed the doors to the papal villa.

As the massive doors swung shut, people in the square shouted, “Viva il papa!” (“Long live the Pope!”) and began applauding.


Friday 1


After Benedict XVI officially became Pope Emeritus, at the Vatican, officials from the College of Cardinals had a series of tasks to perform at the beginning of the sede vacante, the period when there is no Pope.

The most symbolic tasks were carried out by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the camerlengo or chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, and his assistants. During the sede vacante, the chamberlain is charged with administering and safeguarding the temporal goods of the Church.

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