Lunedì, 15 Ottobre 2018
VATICAN CITY

Pope Benedict XVI prepares for last general audience

English
© ANSA

(By Christopher Livesay)
Vatican City, February 26 - With only two days
before Benedict XVI steps down as pope, Vatican officials braced
for an onslaught of visitors and the impending arrival of the
conclave of cardinals to elect his successor, which Vatican
watchers say may begin as soon as next week.
The president of the Italian Bishops' conference, Cardinal
Angelo Bagnasco, said Tuesday the conclave would be held as soon
as possible following Benedict's shocking resignation with
effect from February 28.
"The Church in its wisdom and experience, and in accordance
with a very strict code, is moving towards the earliest possible
Conclave," said the archbishop of Genoa.
Cardinal Bagnasco also described the moment as "historic"
and invited the faithful to pray for the outgoing pope "in the
midst of many other important matters, including for our
country".
On Monday Benedict issued an executive papal decree known
as a motu proprio allowing the college of cardinals to begin the
conclave before the statutory 15 days have passed from the
beginning of the sede vacante (the interregnum period between
the death of a pope and the election of a successor), provided
all voting cardinals are in Rome.
While a date will not be set until after March 1, some
Vatican experts have said the conclave could begin early next
week.
"The actual start date is still undetermined. But I think
it's going to be very early in March," Edward Peters, a Vatican
consultant on Roman Catholic church law, told the Detroit Free
Press. "I'm thinking the 5th or the 8th."
Among the major events leading up to a new pontificate is
Benedict's last general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday,
which the Church predicts will draw over 50,000 people to St
Peter's Square, including a number of heads of state and
dignitaries from around the world.
Upon formally resigning Thursday at 20:00 local time,
Benedict will be called 'pope emeritus' or 'Roman pontiff
emeritus', Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said
Tuesday.
Lombardi added that it will still be possible to address
Benedict as "Your Holiness".
He said the 85-year-old German would continue to wear the
"simple, white" papal cassock and use shoes given to him by
Mexican cobblers during a visit last year.
"The pope really liked the gift of the shoes made for him
by the artisans of Leon, Mexico, and he will continue to use
them," Lombardi said.
The spokesman confirmed that Benedict's ring of office as
pope will be destroyed, according to Vatican tradition.
He added that Benedict's papers have been split between
documents regarding the government of the Church, "which will go
to the competent archives," and his personal notes that will
stay with him.
Meanwhile focus continues to shift to potential successors
to the throne of St Peter.
The patriarch of Venice and wildcard candidate for pope
praised Benedict's legacy on Tuesday in the final days of his
papacy.
"He is a man that has served the church through and
through, and who taught us that one does not fill a post but
serve the Church. We all love him very much," said Archbishop
Francesco Moraglia.
At just 59 and not yet a cardinal, Moraglia is considered a
dark horse candidate for pope.
But a large number of the prelates who held the office of
Venice patriarch eventually rose to pope, three of whom did so
in the last century: Pius X in 1903, John XXIII in 1958, and
John Paul I in 1978.
On February 11, Benedict shocked the world by announcing he
would step down, becoming the first pope to do so in 600 years.
Benedict, 85, blamed his advanced age, leading many of the
faithful to call for a young successor.

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