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What you need to know for 01/19/2018

POPE LIVE: Preparation for exit, helicopter ready

POPE LIVE: Preparation for exit, helicopter ready

"Pope Live" follows the events of the final day of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy as seen by journalists

"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.

"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.



Italians often show up for events at the last minute, and the gathering to say farewell to Pope Benedict XVI in the main square of Castel Gandolfo was no exception.

As the clock struck 4:15 p.m., the crowd of a few hundred seemed to swell almost at once to a few thousand well-wishers packing the tiny, rectangular square.

Yellow-and-white paper pennants in Vatican colors were selling briskly at €1 euro ($1.50) apiece as the town awaited the pope's arrival in about an hour.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



Sitting on a borrowed plastic chair as he awaited Benedict XVI's final public appearance as pope, Tiago Padilha speculated on what it would be like to have someone from his home country of Brazil lead the Church.

"If he comes from Brazil, it would be a big joy for a great people with great faith," he said, his 18-month-old son perched on his knee happily blowing soap bubbles. "That would develop even more the faith among the Catholic youth. That would be fantastic."

Brazilian Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer is believed to be to be a leading contender to succeed Benedict. Many believe that a pontiff from Latin America would help stem the losses in a region where 40 percent of the world's Catholics live.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



Anna Maria Togni and her friend walked two kilometers (one mile) from the outskirts of Castel Gandolfo to witness history today as Pope Benedict XVI retires. Licking a gelato of hazelnut and nougat, Togni said she "felt lucky."

"We have the pope right here at home," she said.

"We feel a tenderness toward him. I think they made him leave," she said of Benedict.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



Being a Swiss Guard is not all feathered helmets and puffy striped uniforms.

To even apply, you must be Catholic, male, Swiss and between 19 and 30 years of age. You need to sign up for a minimum two-year hitch and must complete your mandatory military service back at home.

Swiss Guards take an oath to protect the present pope and whoever follows him as the latest successor to the first pontiff, Peter.

Tonight, when Pope Benedict XVI retires at 8 p.m., the Swiss Guards will go inside the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo and go off duty. They won't be staying, however — after they get out of their dress uniforms they will be driven back to Rome.

Benedict will then be guarded by Vatican security personnel.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



The French Bishops' Conference has announced that Cardinal Jean Honoré, who was appointed by Benedict's predecessor John Paul II, died Thursday, hours before the pope was due to leave office. He was 92.

Honoré, who was Archbishop of Tours from 1972 to 1981, was already over 80 when he was made a cardinal in 2001, so he was unable to vote at the previous conclave in 2005 and would not have voted at the upcoming one either.

He was an expert in the work of the British 19th-century cleric Cardinal John Henry Newman, who was beatified by Benedict in 2010.

— Noami Koppel — Twitter



Just minutes ago, the balcony doors swung open at the papal palace overlooking the main square in Castel Gandolfo, where Pope Benedict XVI will say the last public words of his papacy.

Two aides came out and draped a crimson banner emblazoned with the papal seal off the balcony's railing.

The first signs of movement inside the palace set off a round of cheering from the few hundred people jamming the tiny square.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



Benedict is on permanent record as a fan of Castel Gandolfo.

A plaque on the main square in his name praises his view of the lake and "the good people" of the town of 8,500. Three hours before his arrival by helicopter, some 100 of them were awaiting him in the little cobblestone square outside the brown wooden doors of the residence where he will stay once his papacy ends.

A greeting was spelled out in silver letter-shaped balloons: "Thanks Benedict, all of us are with you." It was strung up between the second and third floors of an apartment building whose ground floor is home to the town's tiny post office and across the square from a coffee bar — where local were sipping espresso to get a caffeine jolt for the wait.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



Luciano Mariani is bidding farewell to his sixth pope with a big parade.

Mariani, a member of the famed Knights of Malta who has served a succession of popes at Castel Gandolfo, met his first pope, Pius XII, as a boy. He and other members of the order help tend the grounds at the estate, where Benedict XVI will arrive later today to spend the last hours of his papacy.

Mariani and his fellow Knights of Malta will dress in ceremonial garb to greet him with a parade.

Mariani, 69, says Benedict "is a great pope. He did a lot of beautiful and big things for the church." He said his order was shocked by the pope's resignation but he says "we have to accept it as Christians and we have to have faith in it."

The Knights of Malta, which has 13,500 members worldwide, celebrated its 900th anniversary last month.


— Amer Cohadzic, AP video producer.



Benedict is being welcomed in the town of Castel Gandolfo, but John Paul II truly made it his second home while he was pope, spending more than five years total there during his long papacy.

He had a swimming pool installed and liked to put his desk outside to work. He once caught the whiff of a barbeque and showed up as the surprise guest of a group of Swiss Guards.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



Catholics in the United States are conflicted over what they want from the next pope.

In a survey days after Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication, Catholics split over whether they hope his successor will generally preserve tradition or make changes in Catholic teaching.

A majority of Catholics said the next pontiff should allow priests to marry, but people who attend Mass more frequently are less certain about the idea.

Most U.S. Catholics also said it would be good for the church if the new pope came from a developing country. Catholicism is growing dramatically in Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America, while the faith is shrinking in the West.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center in Washington.

— Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer,



This from the Philippines, an Asian nation where more than 75 million people in the population of 94 million are Roman Catholic:

Romeo Mercardo, a 45-year-old tricycle driver in front of Manila's Santa Ana Church, says he's saddened by Pope Benedict's resignation. "''I think he ran the church well. From what I see even here in our parish . you can see a lot of people going to Mass. People would go to church as early as Saturday, and on Sundays the church is packed," Mercardo says.

The historic church dating back to the Spanish colonial era held no special Masses today for Benedict, but many Filipinos followed the news from the Vatican on the radio and TV.

—Eden Mendez, 23, a saleswoman in a clothing store: "It's sad that he has to go. I hope whoever will replace him will also work like him. He did well for the church."

—Fortunato Vendivel, a professor at Philippine Normal University: "My wish for him is to get well because he looks really ill, and I think he badly needs to rest."

— Teresa Cerojano — Twitter



People are starting to show up in the square in Castel Gandolfo to await the Pope's arrival, but they are still outnumbered by members of the media.

— Tony Hicks, AP Regional Photo Editor Europe & Africa — Twitter http://twitter/com/hicksy663



The pope's retirement means his famous Swiss Guards get a few days off before they have to protect the new guy.

Stern-face and standing as erect as the halberds they grasp, Swiss Guards rarely betray emotion on duty. But their storied history has its early roots in a bloody drama.

Nearly five centuries ago, 147 Swiss Guard died while protecting Pope Clement VII in his frantic dash to safety when Emperor Charles V's soldiers sacked Rome.

A few decades earlier, the Renaissance pope, Julius II, had asked Switzerland to supply the Vatican with soldiers because he was so impressed by the courage of Swiss mercenaries.

The Swiss Guards will go off-duty Thursday evening at 8 p.m. — the exact moment when the man they serve, Pope Benedict XVI, resigns.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 to end the Great Western Schism, a nearly 40-year split over leadership of Christendom. The disagreement was a major political struggle since the Church played a central role in politics, art and daily life in much of Europe, which was slowly transitioning into the Renaissance.

During that era:

— Heretics were burned at the stake, including Bohemian-born Jan Hus, a priest considered an inspiration for the Protestant Reformation, in 1415. Joan of Arc, who fought for France in the Hundred Years War against England, died at the stake in 1431.

— The Medicis were building the banking empire that would turn them into a political dynasty, make them influential art benefactors and eventually produce four popes, the first in 1513.

— Early Renaissance artists like Donatello were playing with perspective in sculptures of saints that adorned his country's ornate churches.

— Matt Surman — Twitter



Update for the Twitter world:

The Vatican says retiring Pope Benedict XVI will send his last tweet as pope around 5 p.m. Rome time (1600 GMT, 11 a.m. EST). That's also about the time he's set to leave the Vatican by helicopter to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi says the pope's Twitter handle (at)Pontifex will then be "in abeyance" until the next pontiff is selected. He says it'll be up to the next leader of the Catholic Church as to whether or not he will use it.

— Joji Sakurai — Twitter —



Australia's Cardinal George Pell, one of those who will be voting for the next pope, is speaking in Rome about Pope Benedict XVI's retirement:

"He was well aware that this was a break with tradition, slightly destabilizing. But he felt that because of his weakness and sickness, which was only too evident today, that he just didn't have the strength to lead in church in these demanding times."

— Victor Simpson



Everyone looks forward to retirement for one reason or another. In Pope Benedict XVI's case, it might be having more time for walks.

Benedict took daily strolls through Vatican City's gardens. Now, awaiting his first months in retirement at Castel Gandolfo is a splendid expanse of manicured lawn, dotted by geometrically-shaped bushes for his afternoon walks.

The Holy See got a good deal on the castle and its grounds. It was acquired in the late 1500s in return for an unpaid debt owed by Italian nobles. But the estate didn't always appear so beautiful. For years, it was almost abandoned after the fall of the Papal State in 1870, as modern Italy took shape.

— Frances D'Emilio — Twitter



One-hundred and fifteen cardinals will be voting in the next few weeks to choose Pope Benedict's XVI successor. Should they return the papacy to an Italian, stick with a pontiff from elsewhere in Europe, or follow the trends in the church and look to Africa or across the Atlantic? Here's a look at some possible contenders:


— Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan

— Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, archbishop of Vienna

— Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of Vatican's culture office


— Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana, head of the Vatican's justice and peace office


— Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo

— Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina

— Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina


— Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, head of the Vatican's office for bishops

— Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York


— Cardinal Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila


— Brian Murphy, AP's Dubai bureau chief.


Follow AP reporters on Twitter where available.

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