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Two Cardinals with St. Louis connections were center stage this morning as Pope Benedict said his final farewell. The Pope says he will pray for his cardinals as they choose his successor.
Cardinal-Emeritus Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, the former and 7th Archbishop of St, Louis, joined Ballwin native Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America."
George Stephanopoulos asked Rigali about speculation Dolan could be chosen to succeed Pope Benedict XVI:
"Stephanopoulos: He's on everyone's short list just about to be the pope. Rigali Well I think (Dolan laughs) we'll have to let the Holy Spirit decide that (Dolan laughs) You can see he has many virtues."
Benedict met with the cardinals as part of his final day as pontiff before retiring. Benedict promised "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor.
Only a handful of popes have ever done so.
The last was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism, a dispute among competing papal claimants. The most famous resignation was Pope Celestine V in 1294; Dante placed him in hell for it.
Benedict is saying farewell this morning to his closest advisers in Clementine Hall at the Apostolic Palace. Then shortly before 5 p.m., he will leave the palace for the last time as pope and fly by helicopter to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.
Benedict Greets Cardinals on Last Day As Pope
Exactly at 8 p.m. — when his resignation takes effect — the doors at Castel Gandolfo will close and the papacy that began on April 19, 2005, will come to an end.
Tens of thousands of people toting banners saying "Grazie!" - "thank you" - jammed the piazza to bid farewell to the pope at his final general audience - the appointment he has kept each week to teach the world about the Catholic faith.
Pilgrims and curiosity-seekers picked spots along the main boulevard leading to the square to watch Wednesday's event on giant TV screens. Some 50,000 tickets were requested for Benedict's final master class, but Italian media estimated the number of people actually attending could be double that.
"It's difficult - the emotion is so big," said Jan Marie, a 53 year old Roman in his first years as a seminarian. "We came to support the pope's decision."
With chants of "Benedetto" erupting every so often, the mood was far more buoyant than during the pope's final Sunday blessing and recalled the jubilant turnouts that often accompanied him at World Youth Days and events involving his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
Benedict on Thursday will become the first pope in 600 years to resign, a decision he said he took after realizing that, at 85, he simply didn't have the strength of mind or body to carry on. He will meet Thursday morning with cardinals for a final time, then fly by helicopter to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.
There, at 8 p.m., the doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards in attendance will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church over - for now.
Many of the cardinals who will choose Benedict's successor were in St. Peter's Square for his final audience, including retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, object of a grass-roots campaign in the U.S. to persuade him to recuse himself for having covered up for sexually abusive priests. Mahony has said he will vote.
Vatican officials say cardinals will begin meeting on Monday to decide when to set the date for the conclave to elect the next pope.
But the rank-and-file in the crowd on Wednesday weren't so concerned with the future; they wanted to savor the final moments with the pope they have known for eight years.
"I came to thank him for the testimony that he has given the church," said Maria Cristina Chiarini, a 52 year old homemaker who traveled by train early Wednesday from Lugo, near Ravenna, with some 60 members of her parish. "There's nostalgia, human nostalgia, but also comfort, because as a Christian we have hope. The Lord won't leave us without a guide."
Benedict received a lengthy standing ovation when he entered the packed audience hall Wednesday. He was interrupted by applause by the throngs of people, many of whom had tears in their eyes.
At the start of his audience, he repeated in Italian what he had told cardinals Monday in Latin: that he simply didn't have the strength to continue. He said "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church."
He asked the faithful "to continue to pray for the pope and the church."
When asked about the possibility that St. Louis' own Cardinal Timothy Dolan taking over as Pope auxiliary Bishop Edward Rice said that's better left for a higher power to decide "He's a hometown boy, I'm a hometown boy, so it would certainly be tremendous and certainly he would be up for the job. You know...it's not a pat answer, it's the truth, but we have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us."
Selected as the 265th Pope in 2005, Benedict will become the first Pope to resign since Gregory XII in 1415.
There is talk that an American could be next in line for the papal office now that Pope Benedict the sixteenth is stepping down from his office at the end of the month. He is the first Pope to resign in 600 years.
Monday morning, Ballwin, Missouri native and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan reflected on the possibility that he could be moving to Rome sometime soon. Dolan says, "Well it's awesome, you're right. I really .. I mean theoretically I've known that since I was made a cardinal last year that that would be one of the awesome responsibilities, but it's not something you think about. I don't have any insider information, but I would presume that his esteem for the office as the successor of Saint Peter and the chief pastor of the church universal ... that esteem is so high that in all humility he simply said, I can't do it anymore."
Cardinal Dolan. along with Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former archbishop of the St. Louis Archdiocese are two of seven Americans in the College of Cardinals who can vote for the next pope . Dolan says he believes 85-year-old Pope Benedic's health is not the best, "He knows he's getting a little wobbly. When he was elected as successor of St. Peter in 2005, he shrugged and said to his fellow cardinals, boy, I sure don't have the strength and the durability that blessed John Paul the Second had. So he's been well aware of his frailty."
Church insiders say Italian cardinals are more likely to succeed. The pope's resignation sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
Pope Benedict XVI Sends First Tweet Watch Video However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.
For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013 BENEDICTUS PP XVI
The 85 year old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning.
He emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide — requires "both strength of mind and body."
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told the cardinals. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.
"However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."
The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner — the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.