VATICAN CITY – On his last morning in office Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI pledged to respect and obey his successor and told the church’s cardinals that he would pray for them to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their selection of a new pontiff.
“Among you is…the future pope, to whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,” the pontiff said, apparently trying to allay fears that having both a reigning and retired pope living inside the Vatican might spark confusion or division within the church.
Benedict bade farewell to the dozens of black-robed cardinals, the "princes" of the Roman Catholic Church, who were seated in the frescoed Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. The prelates filed before him one by one to shake or kiss his hands and exchange a few words; many removed their red skullcaps out of respect.
In his valedictory remarks, delivered from his seat at the front of the hall, Benedict told the cardinals that it had been "a joy to walk with you in these years in the light of the presence of the resurrected Lord." His eight years on the throne of St. Peter had its moments of "radiant light" as well as "clouds that have gathered in the sky," but through it all, "we have tried to serve Christ and his church with deep and total love," the pope said.