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!