Mass. Catholic churches to ring bells in honor of Pope Benedict XVI

Ask not who those bells are tolling for this afternoon. They’re tolling for Pope Benedict XVI.

For eight minutes this afternoon, a tintinnabulation will toll in Catholic churches around Eastern Massachusetts in honor of the departing pope.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, who leads the Archdiocese of Boston, has asked area churches to ring their bells from 1:52 p.m. to 2 p.m., a minute for every year Benedict served as pontiff.

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Benedict departed the Vatican for the last time as pope this morning, becoming just the fifth pope in history to resign from the papacy. He flew by helicopter to the Vatican’s vacation retreat, the Associated Press reports. Bells tolled as he took off and circled St. Peter’s Square, where well-wishers held up signs saying ‘‘Thank You.’’

O’Malley is in Rome for the conclave that is expected to name the new pope. Some Vatican observers say he is a long-shot candidate for the job himself.

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