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POPE LIVE: End of a papacy, dawn of a retirement

Thursday - 2/28/2013, 5:44pm  ET

Pope Benedict XVI greets faithful from his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, the scenic town where he will spend his first post-Vatican days and made his last public blessing as pope,Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The Associated Press

"Pope Live" follows the events of the final day of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy as seen by journalists from The Associated Press around the world. It will be updated throughout the day with breaking news and other items of interest.



In the final moments of Benedict XVI's papacy, the church bells began ringing.

It was 8 p.m. in the Italian hill town of Castel Gandolfo, 8 p.m. in the Vatican, 8 p.m. across Italy -- the chosen time on the chosen day that the one who was chosen decided to retire.

Both Swiss Guards flanked the elegant 20-foot doorway leading into the papal palace in the town. One of them saluted an official. From the crowd -- about 100 well-wishers who braved the freezing temperatures with their children and their dogs -- shouts rang out.

"Long live the pope!"

With precise movements, the guards marched into the palace. The massive wooden doors began closing shut, first one side, then the other. The crowd was applauding, sighing, shivering.

And with the click of a lock, Pope Benedict XVI's eight-year reign as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics came to a quiet end.

-- Frances D'Emilio -- Twitter



A critical voice about Benedict as the doors close on his papacy:

As she left St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square in New Orleans' French Quarter, Cheryl Hribar snapped a picture of the long aisle and altar of the city's most famous church and posted it to her Facebook page. Hribar, a Catholic from Lorain, Ohio, says she's been uneasy about the state of the church and hopes a new pope can change that.

"Pope Benedict took us backward," she says. "He wasn't progressive enough. This is 2013. Let's move on, move ahead and do more to reach our young people and get them back in church. We need someone who will do something strong and positive."

-- Stacey Plaisance



Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley says he hadn't been planning any particular observation for the 8 p.m. hour when the pope officially resigned. O'Malley said the more significant moments for him were when the cardinals gathered with Benedict Thursday morning. "And watching him leave for Castel Gandolfo. There was a certain moment of finality in that."

But the 8 o'clock hour? Dinner with friends, probably. "Pretty prosaic," O'Malley says.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago told reporters at the Pontifical North American College he would say a prayer "that the Holy Spirit will guide us" as the cardinals set about the process of choosing a new pope, most likely from among their ranks.

Then George joked: "I might walk quietly through the corridors here to find out if I get any more deference from the seminarians."

-- Colleen Barry -- Twitter



With the doors of the papal palazzo closed, Benedict XVI has taken his leave of the Vatican's home page too. In place of Benedict's picture, it now reads "Apostolica sedes vacans," referring to the vacancy between papacies.

-- Geir Moulson -- Twitter



The doors of the papal palace have closed. Benedict XVI is no longer pope.



In New York City, the Rev. Moses Mary Apreku says Benedict XVI was right to resign if the work had become too onerous. "To me, it's something that the church should really accept, and thank him for his courage and pray for him," Apreku says.

The 40-year-old Apreku is from Ghana, the West African Nation where one of his seminary teachers was Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, considered a contender to become the next pope. Apreku celebrated Mass today for two dozen worshippers scattered around St. Michael's Church in midtown Manhattan, which has room for hundreds.

Apreku says Turkson would make a good pope -- but he's not rooting for him just because they're both from Ghana.

-- Karen Matthews -- Twitter



Huge anticipation is building in Castel Gandolfo.

Both Swiss Guards are standing at attention at the 20-foot high doors to the papal palace.

Only 100 or so townspeople have come back out, some with children, others with their dogs. Most are quiet but light-hearted, waiting for history to be made as Benedict becomes the first pope in 600 years to retire.

-- Frances D'Emilio -- Twitter



A long banner with a picture of a waving Pope Benedict XVI hangs from an iron fence outside St. Patrick's Catholic Church, one of the oldest in New Orleans, where traditions like Mardi Gras stem from Catholic roots.

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