- Title: VATICAN: Vatican pilgrims react to Pope's resignation
- Date: 12th February 2013
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) PILGRIM, PAOLO PUCCINI, SAYING: "It's going to be a delicate passage but I'm hopeful and I think soon there will be a new pope and we'll be here to celebrate, without forgetting Benedict who has been a great pope despite the difficult times he's had to deal with." VARIOUS MORE OF JOURNALISTS IN SQUARE POLICE
- Embargoed: 27th February 2013 12:00
- Location: Vatican City State
- Country: Vatican City State
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA8V9BXHRUR7W6SKM3ELG4X7O4U
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Italians awoke on Tuesday (February 12) still trying to grasp the news that their Pope will stand down at the end of the month.
Pope Benedict stunned the Roman Catholic Church on Monday (February 11) when he announced he would stand down, the first pope to do so in 700 years, saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to carry on.
The 85-year-old pontiff announced his abdication as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics in a speech delivered in Latin to cardinals meeting in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.
He will continue in office until 1900 GMT on February 28 before stepping down to allow the election of a new pope, which Vatican officials said was expected to come by the start of the Holy Week on March 24.
He is expected to spend some time at the pope's summer residence near Rome before retiring to spend his final years in a cloistered convent in the Vatican, and will play no part in selecting his successor.
While the news of the resignation was splashed across front pages of the Italian newspapers, St. Peter's Square was quiet on Tuesday morning, with just a few pilgrims milling around, trying to come to terms with the news.
"It's a very good thing for the Church. Definitely, it's a very good thing for the Church," Belgian pilgrim Ivan van Gelder said.
"It's going to be a delicate passage but I'm hopeful and I think soon there will be a new pope and we'll be here to celebrate, without forgetting Benedict who has been a great pope despite the difficult times he's had to deal with," Paolo Puccini said.
Famously known as "God's Rottweiler" before his election in 2005, Benedict fought against the spread of materialist values in society and strongly opposed any relaxation of the church's traditional strictures against contraception, homosexual acts or women priests.
His eight years in office were overshadowed by scandals ranging from the sexual abuse of children by priests to the arrest of his own butler for stealing confidential papal documents in the so-called "Vatileaks" affair.
The pope said he had left "with full freedom" and Church officials were at pains to stress that the running of the Church would not be affected by his unexpected departure, which surprised even close aides.
The last pope to leave office willingly was Celestine V, a saintly hermit who served only a few months before abdicating in December, 1294. Another pope, Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy.
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