CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy — With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday evening, the Swiss Guards have left their posts and sealed the gates of the former pope’s temporary residence of Castel Gandolfo.
A crowd of Catholic faithful gathered Feb. 28 outside the papal vacation spot. At 8pm Rome time, a loud bell rang eight times. The crowd shouted Viva il Papa! (“Long live the Pope!”)
The Swiss Guards entered Castel Gandolfo and hung up their ceremonial weapons — called halberds — on the inner walls, as there is no longer a sitting pope for them to protect.
Vatican gendarmes dressed in black uniforms have relieved the guards. The doors of Castel Gandolfo have been sealed, symbolizing the vacancy of the See of Peter; and the lights of the papal residence in Vatican City are dark.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has exchanged his red papal shoes for simple brown ones, given to him on his recent trip to Leon in Mexico. He now wears a simple white cassock without the mozzetta — the short cape that covers his shoulders.
Benedict XVI traveled to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter and car two hours before his resignation took effect. Hundreds of Catholic faithful greeted his arrival to hear his final words as pontiff.
“I’m simply a pilgrim that is starting the last stage of his pilgrimage on earth,” he remarked, “but I would still like with my heart, with my love, with my prayer, with my reflection, with all my inner strength to work for the common good of the Church and of humanity, and I feel very supported by your sympathy.”
“Let’s go ahead together with the Lord for the good of the Church and of the world,” he said before making his final apostolic blessing.
“Thank you and good night. Thanks to all of you,” Pope Benedict said before departing from the Castel Gandolfo balcony.
Now that he has resigned, the former pope will live at Castel Gandolfo for two months before moving to a monastery inside Vatican City. In the upcoming days, 115 cardinals will gather at the Vatican to elect his successor.