At 8:00 p.m. Rome time, February 28, 2013, the Papacy became vacant with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. The Church is now in a period called the interregnum, as it awaits the election of a new Pope.
The Cardinals are expected to announce the start of the Conclave within the next several days. It cannot begin until the Cardinals who are eligible to vote and can attend are present. As of February 27, more than 100 of the 115 Cardinals eligible to vote were reported to already be in Rome.
His Holiness, now called the Roman Pontiff Emeritus, began his final day meeting with the College of Cardinals in Clementine Hall, where he called on the men who will select his successor to do so in unity and harmony. Noting that his successor might be in the Hall, Benedict pledged his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to the next pope.
Following the brief ceremony, Pope Benedict received individual greetings from the assembled cardinals and from officials of the Roman Curia, the church's central administration at the Vatican. Most kissed the pope's ring, with some also genuflecting before they exchanged a few words with the pope. Some cardinals handed the pope what appeared to be personal notes or small presents; Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, one of Pope Benedict's former students, gave him a book.
'Sede vacante' insignia used by Vatican during period between popes.
This is the Vatican insignia representing the "sede vacante" (vacant see). The emblem is used between the death of a pope and the election of a new one -- a period known as the interregnum. The Holy See will be considered vacant at 8 p.m. in Rome Feb. 28, the official time of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. (CNS illustration/Tim Meko)
Cover of 'Ordo Rituum Conclavis,' containing prayers, rituals used in conclave
The "Ordo Rituum Conclavis" (Rites of the Conclave) gives the prayers and rituals used for the conclave. The 343-page book is in Latin with Italian translations. It begins by noting that the election of a pope "is prepared for and takes place with liturg ical actions and constant prayer." (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)
Page from Rites of the Conclave shows questions to be asked of cardinal who has been elected pope
A page from the "Ordo Rituum Conclavis" (Rites of the Conclave) shows two questions that are asked of the cardinal that has just been elected pope. The first is: "Do you accept your canonical election as supreme pontiff?" And then, "What name do you wish to be called?" (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)