Vatican City

Benedict says cardinals 'a joy'

Pope emeritus pledges obedience and reverence to his successor

Benedict says cardinals 'a joy'

(by Manuela Tulli). Vatican City, March 1 - As Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican on Thursday to begin his retirement, his farewells reminded many of the pope's words and deeds during his almost eight years as pontiff. His commitment to prayer and study, and to the improvement of the Church was on display as Benedict pledged obedience to his successor at a meeting of cardinals on his last day as pontiff. "Among you is the future pope, to whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience," Benedict said. The outgoing pope added that the support and advice he had received from the cardinals during the time he has spent as pope were of "great help". "It has been a joy for me too, to walk with you over these years," Benedict said. As a parting piece of advice, he added that the College of Cardinals "should be like an orchestra in which diversity can lead to synchronous harmony". Benedict then greeted, one by one, all of the cardinals, many of whom were visibly moved. Many of these same cardinals were actually appointed to their powerful positions inside the Catholic Church by Benedict. He also pledged ongoing solidarity. "I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you are fully accepting of the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope," Benedict told the cardinals. His obvious and very public submission to a still unknown successor was not required, although the processes of dealing with a retired pope is unknown territory in which the Vatican itself is now finding its way. No pope has retired in roughly 600 years, as popes traditionally die in office. That means the rules around succession planning are being developed somewhat on the fly. As part of that process, Benedict announced that in retirement, he would assume the mantle of "pope emeritus" a title many would say he earned in part through his scholarly approach to issues of faith. That title was chosen by Benedict, in consultation with others including the Cardinal Secretary of State and Camerlengo Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See's Secretariat of State and the College of Cardinals, Vatican officials said. Benedict also reiterated on Wednesday the fact that his decision to step down was taken for the good of the Church. At his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, he said the decision was made "in full awareness of its seriousness, but also with a deep serenity of spirit... I asked God to enlighten me to make the right decision for the good of the Church". Benedict also responded to those who criticized his decision on the grounds that a pope should not "climb down from the cross". "I am not abandoning the cross," Benedict said, adding that he will remain attached to the "crucified Lord" albeit in a "new way". His arguments on behalf of the faith will be one of the legacies that Benedict leaves for the church, now that he has departed for Castel Gandolfo to begin his retirement. Despite his obvious passion for lectures and debate as well as study, Benedict has insisted that he will go quietly into his retirement, living a life of prayer and contemplation rather than speaking out on issues.

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