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Pope Benedict’s last day.  We're looking at challenges for the Catholic Church and ahead to the conclave.

Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AP)
Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AP)

Last day today for Pope Benedict XVI.  The first pope is 600 years to leave his post alive.  To resign.  Abdicate.

At 8pm Rome time today, Benedict officially becomes Pope Emeritus.  Helicopters off to the papal Castel Gandolfo in the Italian hills.  His papal ring, the fisherman’s ring, will be smashed with a silver hammer.  The same hammer once used to tap a dead pope’s forehead – just to be sure.

The Catholic Church has been in stormy waters, Benedict said in his last St. Peter’s Square message.  Deeply true.  Now what?

This hour, On Point:  the Church and its leadership after Pope Benedict.
-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Rachel Donadio, Rome bureau chief for the New York Times. (@racheldonadio)

Thomas Groome, professor of theology and religious education and chair of the department of religious education and pastoral ministry at Boston College. Author of "Will There be Faith?: A New Vision for Educating and Growing Disciples."

Robert P. George, he’s been called one of the country’s most influential conservative Christian Thinkers. He has advised and assisted Catholic bishops in the U.S. and in the Vatican on matters of bioethics, religious liberty, and church-state relations.

From Tom's Reading List

The New York Times "In the waning hours of his troubled papacy, Pope Benedict XVI held his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, telling tens of thousands of believers in an unusually personal public farewell that his nearly eight years in office had known 'moments of joy and light but also moments that were not easy' when it seemed 'the Lord was sleeping.'"

Los Angeles Times "They represent the region with more Roman Catholics than any other. And their to-do list for the next pope is a long one. Next month, 19 cardinals from Latin America will be among the 117 from around the world expected to be eligible to participate in the secret meetings to choose a replacement for Pope Benedict XVI."

Pew Research Center "As the pontificate of Benedict XVI winds down, many American Catholics express a desire for change. For example, most U.S. Catholics say it would be good if the next pope allows priests to marry. And fully six-in-ten Catholics say it would be good if the next pope hails from a developing region like South America, Asia, or Africa."

This program aired on February 28, 2013.

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