Pope Benedict XVI delivered his last Sunday blessing today as come February 28 he will officially step down as pontiff following his decision to resign as papal head citing failing health.
Speaking to the crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square, the Pope thanked all those who had supported him in his last days, speaking in several languages to this effect, saying, "The Lord is calling me to climb the mountain - prayer is not an isolation from the world. I am not abandoning the Church. If God is asking me to do this it is precisely so I can continue to serve with the same dedication and love as before but in a way that is more appropriate for my age and for my strength.”
The Pope’s decision to resign came as a shock to the world as it was the first time in nearly 600 years that a pope had stepped down but Cardinal Ratzinger’s decision was well founded as at 77, he was the oldest ‘new’ pope to be appointed and his slowly failing health has taken its toll as it was revealed by the Vatican that the Pope was using a pacemaker and the Pope’s brother revealed that he had been advised by doctors not to make any transatlantic flights anymore and that he was having difficulty walking.
Following his announcement, it was revealed that the Pope would be stepping down on Thursday, February 28, after which he would be retiring to a nunnery, which is presently being prepared for him, within the Vatican. An estimated 100,000 people attended the Pope’s last Sunday blessing, with many attending from all around the world. After his speech, the clearly moved Pope said to the gathered crowds, "We will always be close!"
Of course with Pope Benedict XVI stepping down, a new pope will have to be elected, which the Vatican has said will be before the end of Lent that is Easter sometime in March. Of course the voting itself, which has called upon 117 cardinals from around the world to attend the conclave has already been hit by scandal. Two cardinals that is Cardinal Keith O'Brien from Scotland and Cardinal Mahoney from Los Angeles have been asked not to vote in the upcoming conclave. Cardinal O’Brien appears to have allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” against him, while Cardinal Mahoney is said to have protected priests accused of sexual abuse.