MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The papacy of Benedict XVI is officially over and many South Florida Catholics watched every moment of his historic resignation.
Teachers and students at local schools discussed the process of his resignation and selection of the future Pope. They also viewed together the events occurring in Rome as they unfolded on Thursday.
At 11:00 a.m. EST, the Pope left the Vatican and flew by helicopter to the papal retreat, Castel Gandolfo, where he told tearful well-wishers that he is beginning the final stage of his life as “simply a pilgrim.”
After boarding the helicopter, his final tweet was sent. Originally written in Latin, it translated to, “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope’s Twitter handle @Pontifex will now be “in abeyance” until the next pontiff is selected. He said it’ll be up to the next leader of the Catholic Church as to whether or not he will use it.
The account now reads “Sede Vacante” (“seat vacant”) and all of Benedict’s tweets have been deleted.
For those in South Florida who wanted to take part in the historic events in Rome, the doors of St. Mary Cathedral, located at 7485 NW 2nd Avenue in Miami, opened at 12:45 p.m. for anyone who wanted to come to pray at 2:00 p.m., which is the exact moment Benedict’s resignation went into effect.
“Please come, the cathedral is the mother church and mothers always receive their children,” said Father Christopher Marino from St. Mary’s Cathedral.
From powerful priests welcoming Catholics to pray for Pope Benedict on his final day in the papacy to young people saying their Hail Mary’s and wishing the Pope the best, Catholics across South Florida are making this historic day with thought and prayer.
That includes students from St. Mary Cathedral School who read quotes of his pontificate and brought up pictures and his books. At 2:00 p.m., a candle that has been lighting a picture of him sitting in the Chair of Peter was blown out.
“It’s an historical moment. Nothing like this has happened before in the history of the world and we’ve never watched it,” said Father Christopher Marino.
Parishoner Rita Daly came to pray for Benedict, the church and all catholics at this moment in time when the church leadership is in transition.
“We all have great faith and we know our church will be strong but in the interim, the church needs our prayers.”
At Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Miami, 3rd and 8th grade students performed a small skit to honor the virtue of humility, a virtue they believe the Pope’s resignation demonstrates.
“Pope Benedict was retiring so we wanted to make it a special day,” said 3rd grader Katrina Diaz-Balart.
Performing a selection from Shel Silverstein’s, “The Giving Tree”, the kids learned what it is to be humble. They wish everyone had more humility.
“Everyone would be nice, and there would be no bullies and no one would get hurt,” said 3rd grader Alex Hoio.
Despite their young years, these kids understand that the Pope’s resignation made history today.
“This hasn’t happened in like forever,” exclaimed Katrina.
“It’s historic, there’s only been a few popes that resigned before their death,” said 8th grader Jonathan Rodriguez.
The students also released balloons into the sky and thanked a man they will likely never meet, a man thousands of miles away, who they are taught to hold close to their hearts.
“Thank you for being such a good Pope and I hope you have a good time with your life,” said Alex.
At Castel Gandolfo, at 2 p.m. Eastern, the doors of the palazzo closed and the Swiss Guards in attendance went off duty, their service protecting the pope now finished. 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.
Benedict is the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. In an unexpected speech to cardinals Thursday morning, the Pope promised “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor.
A statement released by Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s last day in service read in part, “As Pope Benedict himself put it in his resignation announcement, there is only one Supreme Pastor — Jesus Christ. Popes for the universal Church and bishops in their dioceses are only his vicar. Recognizing the limitations that health and age have imposed on him, Pope Benedict XVI gave his “two weeks’ notice” as it were. Coming just before the beginning of Lent, there is sufficient time, I believe, for the cardinals to gather, to hold a conclave and elect a new Vicar of Christ in time for Holy Week and Easter. We thank God for the gift of this good servant of Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict. We pray that the cardinals will be guided by the Holy Spirit as they elect a new pope — to be an “instrument in the Lord’s hands” as he walks in the shoes of the Fisherman.”