As the clock struck 8 yesterday evening, the time of Sede Vacante began, thus officially ending the pontificate of Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus. The Swiss Guards, who are charged with the protection of the Holy Father, closed the doors of the Apostolic Palace and departed from Castel Gandolfo.
At a press conference today at the Vatican, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, showed journalists a video of yesterday’s events after the Sede Vacante began. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Camerlengo or Chamberlain, sealed off the papal apartments in Rome. Also present were Cardinal Pier Luigi Celata, Vice Camerlengo, and several prelates who work in the Pontifical household.
Fr. Lombardi also said that Cardinal Celata sealed the papal apartments in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome.
Fr. Lombardi also spoke of the first hours of Benedict XVI as Pope Emeritus. The director of the Holy See Press Office said that he spoke with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s secretary and prefect of the Papal Household, who said that His Holiness was very “calm and serene”.
Benedict XVI had “watched several news programs and expressed his appreciation for the work of the journalists as well as for the participation of those who had assisted in his departure from the Vatican. Shortly after a brief walk through the Apostolic Palace, he went to bed and according to Archbishop Gänswein, slept very well.
This morning, His Holiness celebrated Mass at 7:00 am followed by praying the Liturgy of the Hours. At 4:00pm, the Pope Emeritus of Rome will plan to walk through the gardens of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo and pray the rosary.
Fr. Lombardi stated that among the various books on theology and church history that the Pope has brought with him, Archbishop Gänswein noted that currently Benedict XVI is reading famed theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theological Aesthetics.