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PostSubject: Pope Benedict pledges 'obedience' to successor   Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:02 am

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Pope Benedict XVI has pledged his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to whoever succeeds him as head of the Roman Catholic church as he prepares to stand down.

In an apparent attempt to defuse growing concerns that his move - the first papal abdication in almost 600 years - would sow further division among the church, Benedict told assembled cardinals in the Vatican they should be unified in their future action.

"Before greeting you individually, I would like to tell you that I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the coming days," he said, towards the end of a speech in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. "Among you is the future pope, to whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience."

Benedict - whose resignation will come into effect at 8pm (7pm GMT) on Thursday - spoke of his desire to see the college of cardinals unified "like an orchestra" where harmony existed alongside diversity, which he said was "the expression of universal church".

His remarks came after one cardinal made several critical comments about Benedict and his decision to stand down. George Pell, an Australian cardinal and archbishop of Sydney, told the Seven Network on Wednesday that the move might set a worrying precedent. "People who, for example, might disagree with a future pope will mount a campaign to get him to resign," he said. He went on to describe the outgoing pontiff as a "brilliant teacher" but said that "government wasn't his strongest point." Pell said: "He's got to know his theology, but I think I prefer somebody who can lead the church and pull it together a bit."

The farewell meeting with the cardinals was Benedict's final high-profile engagement as pope in the Vatican. After saying goodbye to the pontifical household, he will leave the Apostolic Palace at 5pm and be flown in a helicopter to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles southeast of Rome.

Soon after, amid the greetings of local residents and pilgrims, he will make his final appearance as pope on the balcony of the apostolic palace. At 8pm, the Swiss guards whose job it is to guard the pope will go off duty from the gates of the palace. They are expected to be replaced by Vatican police.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/28/pope-benedict-pledges-obediance-successor?CMP=twt_gu
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