After eight years of rule, Pope Benedict’s retirement from his position of authority in Vatican City on Thursday, February 28th, marks a significant historical moment in modern history. For nearly 6 centuries, Pope Benedict XVI’s previous successors have abided by the tradition of ruling for the duration of their entire life. However, the Pope’s radical decision sparks further suspicion as to why he may be terminating his rule. As the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope’s retirement temporarily left the Church in the hands of the Vatican police until the new Pope was elected by the Cardinals.
Despite Pope Benedict XVI’s public claim that his age was hindering him from demonstrating a strong leadership to the Roman Catholic Church’s 1.2 billion followers around the world, many believe that his retirement was, in part, due to numerous scandals involving religious officials during this time. Earlier in February, news erupted announcing the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien. O’Brien, the archbishop of the United Kingdom, was allegedly convicted of inappropriate behavior towards other priests. Originally, O’Brien intended on resigning from his position on his 75th birthday in mid-March; however, Pope Benedict XVI ordered for his immediate resignation from the Church clergy.
Furthermore, earlier in December, scandals had been circulating with regards to blackmail of several homosexual priests by male prostitutes in Rome, leading many to wonder if the newly elected Pope will alleviate the Church of its recent scandalous reputation. As the Pope met with the Cardinals on the final day of his authority, he urged the Cardinals to “work like an orchestra” to mend the dissonance in benefit of the Church.
Through the light and the dark times of the Pope’s rule and his decision to retire from his position, Pope Benedict XVI has promised to remain faithful to the Roman Catholic Church and intends to return to the Vatican City after his temporary residence in Castel Gandolfo. “I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth,” stated Pope Benedict XVI in his final speech to the papal public audience on Thursday. On Wednesday, March 13th, thousands gathered in the Vatican to celebrate the Cardinals selection of new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who will be going by Francis. Although Pope Francis I was born in Italy, he grew up in Argentina, and is the first of South American to be chosen to lead the Catholic Church.
Francis addressed the people and asked them to pray for him, saying that “we’ll see each other soon.” Francis I is the first non-European to hold the title of pope in over 1,200 years of the Church’s history.