By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Catholic Church awoke Friday with no leader following Benedict XVI's resignation, in which he pledged obedience to his successor and described himself as "simply a pilgrim" starting the final pilgrimage of his life.
Now begins a period known as the "sede vacante" or "vacant see" — the transition between the end of one papacy and the start of another.
During these few days — no more than 20 — a few key players take charge running the Holy See, guiding the College of Cardinals in their deliberations and organizing the conclave to elect Benedict's successor.
With the 8 p.m. Thursday end of Benedict's papacy, every department head in the Vatican lost his job — except for those whose offices are crucial for the smooth running of the transition period. Cardinals on Monday begin meetings to set the conclave date and discuss problems facing the church.
Here are the top figures who will run the church in the coming days:
CAMERLENGO: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The camerlengo, or chamberlain, takes over the day-to-day running the Holy See as soon as the papacy ends. He places the seal on the pope's study and bedroom and takes possession of the Apostolic Palace, "safeguarding and administering the goods and temporal rights of the Holy See" until a new pope is elected.
On Thursday night, Bertone sealed the apartment, which will not be reopened until a new pope is elected. Benedict in 2007 gave the camerlengo job to Bertone, 78, a natural choice given Bertone is currently the Vatican No. 2 as secretary of state and runs the Vatican bureaucracy anyway. A priest of the Salesian order, Bertone was trained as a canon lawyer and taught in various Roman universities for several years before coming to work for the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican's doctrine office in 1995.
As secretary of state, Bertone has had Benedict's unwavering trust, but his legacy has been mixed. He had no diplomatic training coming into the Holy See's most important diplomatic and administrative post, and critics blame the gaffes of Benedict's papacy and current state of the Vatican's dysfunction on Bertone's managerial shortcomings.
The 2012 leaks of papal documents appeared aimed at undermining his authority further, by exposing power struggles and turf battles that festered under his watch. In his last speech as pope, however, Benedict singled out Bertone for thanks.
DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS: Cardinal Angelo Sodano. The dean is the senior member of the College of Cardinals, the so-called "princes" of the church whose main task is to elect a pope. In one of his first official acts as dean, Sodano on Friday officially summons cardinals to Rome to participate in the conclave, a formality given that most are already here.
The dean oversees the pre-conclave meetings of the College and also has duties inside the conclave itself, including asking the newly elected pontiff if he accepts the job. But Sodano is 85 and cannot vote, so some of those duties shift to the sub-dean. Burly and sociable, the Italian Sodano was Pope John Paul II's longtime secretary of state.
As dean he spoke on behalf of all the cardinals in giving a final farewell to Benedict on Thursday, thanking him for his "selfless service." Sodano and Benedict were known to have clashed when Benedict was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, particularly over the scandal-plagued Legion of Christ religious order. Sodano was a chief backer and protector of the Legion's late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, even though the Vatican had known for years of solid allegations that he was sexually molesting his seminarians.
Within Benedict's first year in office, Maciel was sentenced by the Vatican to a lifetime of penance and prayers for his crimes. That same year Benedict named his trusted Bertone to replace the retiring Sodano as secretary of state.