Pope Benedict XVI Steps Down

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The red loafers have left the building.

Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican today, ending a seven-year reign as the head of the Catholic Church and becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

The pope, who favored red loafers and whose appointment as pope was marked by sexual abuse scandals by priests, toured St. Peter’s square in the popemobile, greeting tens of thousands gathered for the occasion, and stopping to bless babies.

He then addressed the crowd, saying "I ask each of you to pray for me. During his last speech, which was live streamed on the Internet, he seemed to refer to the scandals, saying that though there were joyful moments during his time as pope, "there were moments when the waters were choppy and there were headwinds." He added, "It seemed like the Lord was sleeping."

The 85-year-old Benedict, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger in Germany, promised “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor. He later boarded a helicopter bound for Castel gandolfo, the papal summer residence 15 miles south of Rome. There, he addressed a crowd from a balcony. "Let us continue to go forward,” he said. “With my dire heart and blessing, I impart my blessing. Thank you and good evening."

His official title is now pontiff emeritus, and as such, is stripped of his infallibility. A new pope will be chosen in the next weeks to be the new leader of the 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide.

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