Pope Benedict's resignation deepens doubt, despondency for Italians
The pontiff has long been the one stable element for Roman Catholic Italians in a modern state that has become a byword for political instability and flawed politicians.
All that changed a week ago when Benedict announced he would be the first pontiff in 700 years to resign, causing alarm and despondency among many faithful in a country whose history has been shaped by the presence of the headquarters of the Church for 2,000 years.
"We are in a moment of social, ideological and cultural crisis and in a moment like that it is completely wrong for him to leave," said Emanuele Vitale, 22, a Sicilian student who joined around 100,000 people packed into St Peter's Square on Sunday for one of Benedict's last appearances before his resignation on Feb. 28.
Another person in the square, pensioner Antonio Mingrone, 68, said: "It is unsettling. At a time when there are all these political conflicts and an economic crisis, it is one more thing weighing on our minds."
Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti, himself a devout Catholic, referred to the "disorientation" of Italians over the pope's decision. "It seems like an epoch is changing on both sides of the Tiber and we feel robbed of points of reference."
Massimo Franco, a leading Italian political commentator and
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