Benedict XVI vows obedience to successor as pope

Pope Benedict XVI has vowed “unconditional obedience and reverence” to his eventual successor.

He was speaking on his final day in office at the Vatican to his cardinals, one of whom will be elected next month to replace him.

Benedict, 85, will leave for the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, later on Thursday.

His deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will have temporary charge of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

In his public farewell speech on Wednesday, Benedict hinted at Vatican infighting.

He said he felt “the gratitude, the appreciation and the love that was flowing between the Pope and the cardinals”.

But another Vatican insider admitted that the next Pope has to continue the work started by Benedict to counter sexual abuse by clergy.

“Speaking as a Catholic priest myself”, he told me, “it’s something that blights our Church, that affects our whole role as priests in the Church.

“It’s clear that there’s a long way to go before healing occurs and before the whole issue is consigned to the past.”

His decision to resign has been openly criticised by Australia’s top Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, who questioned his leadership skills.

The Church has been beset by scandals over sexual abuse by priests and leaked confidential documents revealing internal corruption and feuding.

An estimated 150,000 people packed into St Peter’s Square on Wednesday to hear Pope Benedict, resigning at 85 after seven years in office.

The long-time theologian is expected eventually to retire to a monastery on a hill inside Vatican City, with officials saying he will not be able intervene publicly in the papacy of his successor, though he may offer advice.
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