Vatican City Says Buh-Bye to Pope Benedict XVI

This week Pope Benedict XVI becomes the first pope in nearly 600 years to step down from the papacy, citing mental and physical health issues for the reasoning behind his resignation. After Thursday, he will simply hold the title of "His Holiness Benedict XVI, Roman pontiff emeritus." But despite His Holiness' still impressive job description, Benedict will have to relinquish many of his accouterments, including his papal ring, Swiss Guard, and his forever stylish red shoes. He plans to retire to a life of seclusion and prayer within a monastery in Vatican City that is being restored for his use.

Even though the Vatican will be welcoming Benedict back soon, as of 8 P.M. tomorrow, His Holiness will be but a visitor within its walls. Saint Peter's Basilica — and the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide — will have a new pope presiding over matters. (Side-note: A front-runner for the position, despite some serious controversy, is from the United States.) At least 50,000 people are expected to attend Benedict's final public address today, and thousands more are sure to arrive as the College of Cardinals assembles to choose the next pontificate. And so, on Vatican City's behalf, we'd like to say goodbye to ol' Benedict with a last look around Saint Peter's Square. Arrividerci, Pontiff!

Vatican City, a separate city-state within Rome, is the official seat of the Catholic Church.
Vatican City, a separate city-state within Rome, is the official seat of the Catholic Church.
Crowds gathered on Sunday, Feb. 24, to hear Benedict's final Sunday blessing from his studio window in the building on the right.
Crowds gathered on Sunday, Feb. 24, to hear Benedict's final Sunday blessing from his studio window in the building on the right.
Thousands of visitors are expected to pour into the city as the College of Cardinals meets in the Sistine Chapel to select the next pope.
Thousands of visitors are expected to pour into the city as the College of Cardinals meets in the Sistine Chapel to select the next pope.
St. Peter's Basilica is one of four papal -- or major -- basilicas in Rome.
St. Peter's Basilica is one of four papal -- or major -- basilicas in Rome.
The impressive space was completed over the course of a century in the 1500s and 1600s.
The impressive space was completed over the course of a century in the 1500s and 1600s.
Though Italians prefer to get around via Fiat, Benedict has just days left to make use of the infamous Popemobile.
Though Italians prefer to get around via Fiat, Benedict has just days left to make use of the infamous Popemobile.
Across the way from St. Peter's, the Castel Sant'Angelo was once a papal fortress.
Across the way from St. Peter's, the Castel Sant'Angelo was once a papal fortress.
The passetto, a once-secret tunnel linking the Castel with St. Peter's, was used as an escape route by Pope Clement VII when the basilica came under attack.
The passetto, a once-secret tunnel linking the Castel with St. Peter's, was used as an escape route by Pope Clement VII when the basilica came under attack.
Now a museum, the Castel was often a safe haven for popes -- but Benedict will be retiring to a monastery within Vatican City's walls, not to this age-old spot.
Now a museum, the Castel was often a safe haven for popes -- but Benedict will be retiring to a monastery within Vatican City's walls, not to this age-old spot.
Buh-bye Benedict!
Buh-bye Benedict!

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