National Catholic Reporter

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Benedict Resigns

Scenes from a papal resignation

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At 8 p.m Thursday, the reign of the 265th Pope, the 264th successor of St. Peter, came to an end, having lasted 7 years, 10 months, and 9 days.

As Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican for the last time as the reigning pontiff three hours earlier, pilgrims and admirers came to St. Peter's Square to see his white helicopter fly away.

As jumbo-tron screens showed the final moments -- Benedict saying goodbye to the Roman curia, then waving to the crowd one last time before entering the helicopter -- many could be seen wiping away tears.

Pope Pius XII was prepared to resign as pope

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In the wake of Pope Benedict's decision to resign from the papacy, journalists quickly recalled that Pope John Paul II had also prepared letters of resignation to take effect in the event that he lost his capacity to continue as leader of the church.

But those two are not the only modern popes who prepared to resign.

In the 1940s, Pope Pius XII wrote a letter of resignation that would take effect immediately if Adolf Hitler ever had him arrested, according to a Jan. 28, 1988, report by John Thavis of Catholic News Service (then National Catholic News Service).

Pope Benedict's progressive legacy

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"Pope Benedict leaves behind an important but frequently overlooked legacy on social justice issues. A pope largely viewed in the media as a staunch conservative for his opposition to gay marriage and abortion also trumpeted views to the left of most Democrats in Congress when it came to economic justice and the environment." - John Gehring, senior writer and Catholic outreach coordinator at Faith in Public Life.

A somber St. Peter's Square

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The square outside St. Peter’s Basilica was busy the night of Feb. 26. Crews were setting up chairs, barricades, cameras and lights in anticipation of the final general audience of Pope Benedict XVI. Amid the hubbub, pilgrims and visitors milled quietly on the square, giving the scene a somber dignity.  Standing in the square in the early evening, one could see lights burning brightly in the  papal apartment, leading to the question: want occupies Benedict’s minds on his nights.

Seattle archbishop sets Mass of thanksgiving in honor of Pope Benedict XVI

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Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving on Thursday, the scheduled final day of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate, at 12:10 p.m. in St. James Cathedral, according to an archdiocesan media release Tuesday.

“As Pope Benedict’s pontificate draws to a close,” the statement said, “Archbishop Sartain has asked that a Mass of thanksgiving for the Holy Father be celebrated in each parish throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle, and that all Catholics pray for the pope, his successor and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit during this time of transition.”

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