Shoes, signs, stamps, serenades, field art: creative tributes to pope


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- They said it with signs, serenades, and even a field of grain.

Catholics in Rome and all over the world found myriad ways to pay homage to Pope Benedict XVI before his resignation Feb. 28.

A farmer near the northern Italian city of Verona plowed the image of a giant dove in his pasture. The six-and-a-half acre "portrait" includes the word "Benedictus XVI." The "land artist" was able to position the dove's beak near a tree so that it appeared to have an olive branch in its mouth.

Young people in the Archdiocese of Campinas, Brazil, launched a campaign on Facebook asking people to "wear red shoes in homage to Pope Benedict on Feb. 28."

People were encouraged to take a picture of themselves wearing red slippers, high-tops, sandals or any kind of footwear, as long as it was red, then to post and share the snapshot on the "JMJ Campinas" page on Facebook. Participants were eligible to win a YouCat, a supplement to the catechism created for young people.

Students in Dublin were planning to tweet "Beannacht De Ort"(God bless you) and other messages of thanks to the pontifical Twitter account, @pontifex, after the pope left the Vatican.

Numerous greetings were appearing on Twitter with various hashtags like #ThanksPontifex and #pope #goodbye.

The city of Rome plastered posters around the city with the pope's picture and the words: "You will always be with us. Thank you."

The Italian post office parked a mobile van not far from the Vatican to sell commemorative stamps issued in 2005 celebrating Pope Benedict's election.

The Vatican office was offering special collectors' packs, envelopes, stamps and cancellation marks commemorating the pope's resignation.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, issued a special four-page color insert with its March 1 edition offering a timeline of Benedict's eight-year pontificate; his April 24, 2005, homily at his installation Mass; his June 29, 2012, homily on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul; and his Feb. 11 announcement of his intention to resign.

Vatican Radio was providing back-to-back, live coverage with special guests in the studio to reflect on Pope Benedict's legacy as well as on-the-ground reporting of the pope's last day at the apostolic palace and his journey by helicopter to the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo.

In a final tribute, the Swiss Guard gave the pope an honorary salute as he left the Apostolic Palace around 5 p.m. A smaller regiment kept watch over the pope after he arrived 30 minutes later at Castel Gandolfo.

But at 8 p.m., the Swiss Guards at the main door to the villa ceremoniously closed the doors and left, returning to the Vatican by car. Only an active pope is watched over by the Swiss Guard, while the security detail for the retired Pope Benedict will be the Vatican police.

Parishes all over the world were holding special Masses, morning prayer services and moments for eucharistic adoration offered in honor of Pope Benedict Feb. 28, his last day as pope. For all services scheduled before 8 p.m. Rome time, it would be the last time parishioners could use Pope Benedict's name in the eucharistic prayer.

Masses and prayers were also being offered for the pope during his retirement and the College of Cardinals as they prepare to elect a new leader of the universal church.

Some churches in Rome and Castel Gandolfo were rang their bells at 8 p.m., the time the pope's resignation was to go into effect and begin the "sede vacante."

The choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. planned to offer a musical tribute to the pope after a Mass of Thanksgiving.

Students from 58 different schools in the Archdiocese of Dublin dedicated three days of concerts in Dublin's Helix theater, including readings from texts written by the pope.

Those who could showed their support and affection by attending the pope's last Angelus address Feb. 24 and last general audience Feb. 27. A total of at least 200,000 people attended those events and expressed their thoughts from afar with cheers and homemade signs.

The organist paid homage to the pope at the start of the general audience by playing a musical piece by Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the pope's favorite composers.

The Rome youth group, "Papaboys," held an afternoon serenade under the pope's window the day before his departure, singing Bach's "Stay with us, for evening falls" in Italian and praying the rosary in Latin.

Later that evening, about 100 people gathered with candles under a nearly full moon singing "Jesus Christ, You Are My Life" and other past World Youth Day songs.

Thousands of messages had been pouring in to the pope with good wishes and prayers, and many world and Christian leaders released public statements paying tribute to the pope and his legacy.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a Catholic, thanked the pope for his "years of service and dedication to God, the Catholic Church, and world peace." He said he would keep the pope in his prayers and wished "him well as he enters into retirement."

On behalf of the government and people of Ireland, Prime Minister Enda Kenny praised the pope for having "given strong leadership and great service to the church and her people for many decades."

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople paid tribute to the pope's commitment to Christian unity, saying he has left "an indelible mark on the life and history of the Roman Catholic Church, sealed not only by his brief papacy, but also by his broad and longstanding contribution as a theologian and hierarch of his church, as well as his universally acknowledged prestige."

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