By Rebecca Root
Pope Benedict has vowed “unconditional obedience and reverence” to his future successor.
This comes as the Pope spends his last day as head of the Roman Catholic Church after he announced his resignation earlier this month.
He spent the morning saying farewell to his cardinals and offering his support.
“Among you there is also the future pope to whom I promise my unconditional obedience and reverence,” the pontiff said.
“The Church is a living being, but it also remains always the same”.
Pope Benedict, 85, will be handing over temporary charge to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone until a new successor is agreed upon during conclave.
Talks will begin on the March 4 to set a date for the start of the secret election.
Meanwhile, as of 8pm this evening, Benedict’s time as pope will offically end and his retirement will begin. He will leave the Vatican and head to Castel Gandolfo in the papal summer residence.
This resignation has sparked much controversy around the world whilst many continue to wonder if there’s another reason behind Benedict’s suprise departure. This is the first time a pope has left his post since the middle ages.
Australia’s Cardinal George Pell, has openly criticised the decision and questioned Pope Benedict’s leadership skills. Over the past few years the church has been the centre of many a scandal involving sexual abuse by priests and the leaking of confidential documents. It is thought a new leader may help steady the church’s bad press.
Speaking during his final audience in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday, Pope Benedict thanked believers for respecting his decision to retire and said he was standing down for the good of the Church.
“There were moments of joy and light but also moments that were not easy,” he said.
“There were moments, as there were throughout the history of the Church, when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed that the Lord was sleeping.”