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Louisville, Ky. (WDRB) -- Pope Benedict XVI gave his final Sunday blessing from his studio window to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter's square.
That final Sunday Angelus comes with a new controversy that is rocking the Vatican. Italian media reports the reason the Pope is stepping down is because he learned about a network of gay priests at the Vatican and the church is being blackmailed. The same reports also suggest the Vatican is involved in stealing money.
According to one Italian newspaper, these are the findings of a secret investigation by three cardinals assigned to look into wrongdoing at the Vatican. They were submitted to Pope Benedict in December.
The Vatican is blasting the media for what it says are false and defamatory news reports ahead of the conclave to elect Pope Benedict's successor.
Amid all the controversy, Catholic parishioners in Louisville are reacting to the pope's exit. Some explained the direction they think the church should take. Many called it a bittersweet holy day as Pope Benedict delivers his final Sunday prayer this morning.
The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics says he no longer has strength of mind and body to carry on, so his last day will be Feb. 28. At least a hundred thousand people came to hear Pope XVI's final Sunday Prayer at the Vatican. His exit comes after eight years of dominating the priest's abuse scandals and his efforts to counteract rising secularism in the West. Local Catholic parishioners seemed saddened to hear about recent reports and rumors circulating, but had nothing but good things to say about Pope Benedict's leadership. Members commend him for his services and say they realize the time has come.
"I am pleased with his service as a pope," said parishioner Fran Welsh.
"I am obviously a little sad and dismayed with all that's gone but nonetheless I think he has made enormous contributions to the church and to the world in total."
Other members of the parish echoed the same sentiment toward the resignation.
"I think he has done a good job," said parishioner Dennis Wiggins.
"He is not feeling well and it is time to step down."
The process of electing a new pope belongs to the Cardinals. Around 120 under the age of 80 are eligible to enter the secretive conclave to elect Pope Benedict's successor.
Church rules say the conclave has to start between 15-20 days after the papacy becomes vacant in just four days.
Benedict is the second pope to resign of his own free will in the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church. He is the first to do so since the Middle Ages.