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Pontiff exits

The pope kisses a child as he arrives.

The pope kisses a child as he arrives.

VATIAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has vowed “unconditional obedience and reverence” to his eventual successor.

He was speaking on his final day in office at the Vatican to his cardinals, one of whom will be elected next month to replace him.

Benedict, 85, was due to leave for the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, today.

His deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will have temporary charge of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

In his public farewell speech yesterday, Benedict hinted at Vatican infighting.

His decision to resign has been openly criticised by Australia’s top Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, who questioned his leadership skills.

The church has been beset by scandals over sexual abuse by priests and leaked confidential documents revealing internal corruption and feuding.

An estimated 150,000 people packed into St. Peter’s Square yesterday to hear Pope Benedict, resigning at 85 after seven years in office.

The long-time theologian is expected eventually to retire to a monastery on a hill inside Vatican City, with officials saying he will not be able to intervene publicly in the papacy of his successor, though he may offer advice.

His successor must focus on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy, which has often been overly hesitant to react to the various crises which have arisen during Benedict’s papacy. (BBC)

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