Pope Benedict XVI, who has spent the majority of his career attacking gay people, is to officially resign today (28 February).
He has left the Vatican for the final time as leader of the Catholic Church, where he will spend two months in Castel Gandolfo – the Pope’s summer residence.
In his final farewell, he said: ‘With all my heart and love and my prayers, I would like to work for the good of the Church and humanity.
‘I feel your support. Let’s go on together for the Church and the good of the world.’
Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, is to be known as Emeritus Pope. He announced his shock resignation on 11 February.
In his near eight-year papacy, he has spent a large amount of it attacking gay people.
In his message for World Day of Peace 2013, he said same-sex marriage is unnatural and poses a threat to ‘justice and peace.’
He said: ‘There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union.
‘Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.’
On another occasion, Benedict accused gay and trans people of ‘manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choice’ and ‘destroying the very essence of the human creature’ in the process.
He has also called gay people a ‘defection of human nature’ and a ‘threat to world peace.’
Referring to campaigns to legalize same-sex marriage, he said ‘there is no denying the crisis that threatens [the family] to its foundations – especially in the Western world.’
While the 85-year-old has cited his age and ill health, experts say his resignation comes against a backdrop of controversy over his extremist stance on homosexuality, and, separately, the pedophile priest scandals that have rocked the church.
As the cardinals vote for the next pope, and the world waits for the white smoke to appear, the interim replacement will be Cardinal Tarciso Bertone.
In the past, he has blamed the church child sex scandals on gay people.
Speaking to Gay Star News, UK-based gay rights charity Stonewall’s Andy Wasley said: ‘Many gay Catholics will no doubt hope his successor takes Mark 12:31 a little more to heart.’
Mark 12:31 reads: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater.’