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Pope Benedict XVI bids final farewell

Sam Stryker | Monday, March 4, 2013

On Wednesday, an estimated 150,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to say goodbye to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his final public address – and Notre Dame junior Eliza Nagle was among them.

Nagle, who is studying abroad at John Cabot University in Rome, arrived at the Vatican at 8 a.m. Wednesday and waited three hours for former Pope Benedict to make his appearance. She went through a long line and tight security and finally squeezed in to find a seat for the address.

“It was pretty amazing,” she said. “People were going crazy when he was going around in his little Pope-mobile. He was like a rock star.”

Nagle described the atmosphere at Wednesday’s event as one of “gratefulness” and said people from the world over made the pilgrimage to the heart of the Roman Catholic Church to bid farewell to the former Pope Benedict.

“People were excited to hear Benedict’s last words to the public,” Nagle said. “There were tons of flags and banners. I didn’t expect to see so many people traveling from so far away. People from all over the world, a lot from America.

“The atmosphere was nothing like anything I have ever experienced. It was very emotional.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict’s resignation, the first in six centuries by a pope, took effect 5 p.m. Central European Time on Thursday. While junior Kelsie Corriston, who is also spending the semester studying in Rome, was busy taking a midterm exam during Wednesday’s event, she said she was able to see former Pope Benedict leave the Vatican on Thursday evening.

She said the Vatican was “super packed” as attendees watched on large video screens Pope Emeritus Benedict take a Mercedes to the back of the city, where he boarded a helicopter bound for his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

Corriston said she was “surprised at how emotional” former Pope Benedict’s departure was from the Vatican.

“We talked before how it was a joyous occasion because there would be a new pope, but it was actually kind of sad seeing him leave the Vatican,” she said. “I didn’t really expect it to be that moving.”

Those who have made the trek to the Vatican to say a final goodbye to former Pope Benedict are eagerly snapping up memorabilia commemorating his time as Pope and the upcoming Papal Conclave, such as special stamps.

“Everyone is trying to pick up the rosaries that [former Pope Benedict] has blessed before they sell out,” Corriston said.

Corriston described the media presence the past few days as “insane” in Rome. Members of the international press have interviewed both her and Nagle.

“They all want to interview us Americans,” Nagle said. “It’s just swamped everywhere, media crew everywhere.”

In the next few weeks the College of Cardinals will meet in a papal conclave to select the next leader of the Catholic Church. Nagle said she will be well prepared for the signature white smoke and bells that signify a selection has been made.

“I’m just going to be in my running clothes the whole week,” Nagle said. “As soon as I hear the bells, I am going to run, I am going to have my Notre Dame flag, and I am going to run down the streets with my Notre Dame flag. I think we can get there from wherever we are in the city pretty easy, but I am going to be fast.”