Benedict’s last day

Even on his last day as pontiff, Benedict XVI had to do the work of the church.

He appointed two bishops — Father Samuel Jofre as bishop of the Diocese of Villa Maria in Argentina, and Msgr. Joseph Dinh Duc Dao as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Xuan Luc in Vietnam.

And he sent a telegram of condolence to the ordinary of the Archdiocese of Tours on the occasion of the death today of emeritus Cardinal Jean Marcel Honore, 92.

Other than these final acts, the day was one for farewells, cheers and tears. Late in the morning he met with the College of Cardinals in the Clementine Hall.

His final tweet in the afternoon was, “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”

In the afternoon, he left the Apostolic Palace, said some more goodbyes, and entered a car to be driven to a waiting helicopter near the historic walls of the Vatican City State.

The helicopter flew him the short distance to Castel Gandolfo, where he disembarked and entered the papal villa. Soon he appeared on the balcony and addressed a crowd of locals and those who made the journey there to greet him.

“You know that this day is different for me than the preceding ones,” said Benedict XVI. “I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8:00 this evening and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.”

“But I would still — with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength — like to work for the common good and the Good of the Church and of humanity,” he continued. “I feel very supported by your kindness. Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you. I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!”

He left the balcony and disappeared from view.

A few hours later, the Swiss Guard closed the doors of the pope’s new residence and turned their duties over to Italian police. The Swiss changed into civilian clothes and left. Their duty will be to protect Benedict’s successor.

And with that, the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI came to an end.

Thank you, Holy Father emeritus!