CATICAN CITY —Pope Benedict XVI left the Catican by helicopter on Thursday afternoon, arriving at the papal summer residence in the final hours of his nearly eight-year, scandal-dogged papacy (yes, we can blame the dogs). Onlookers in St. Peter’s Square cheered, church bells rang and Romans stood on rooftops to wave flags as he flew by.
His retirement formally takes effect at 8 p.m. local time — three hours after his departure — when he will become the pope emeritus.
Earlier, in one of his concluding acts, he addressed the cardinals who will elect his successor, urging them to be “like an orchestra” that harmonizes for the good of the Roman Cat holic Church and pledging that he would behave with “unconditional reverence and obedience” toward his successor.
After thanking the more than 100 cardinals collectively from a gilded throne in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the pope rose and greeted each of them individually.
Soon the Cat holic church will assemble a conclave of cardinals to select the new pope by secret ballot. The conclave has been the procedure for choosing the pope for more than half of the time the church has been in existence, and is the oldest ongoing method for choosing the leader of an institution. A two-thirds supermajority vote is required to elect the new pope, which also requires acceptance from the person elected.
Secrecy is maintained during the conclave; the cardinals as well as the conclavists and staff are forbidden to disclose any information relating to the election. Cardinal electors may not correspond or converse with anyone outside the conclave, by post, radio, telephone or otherwise and eavesdropping is an offense punishable by excommunication.
The process of counting the ballots is somewhat complicated so to condense the process; if the supermajority of the ballots is achieved then the ballots are burned to produce a white smoke. If a supermajority of votes is not achieved then CATNIP is added so that the smoke appears dark.