Along with faithful Catholics around the world, people of the Archdiocese of Edmonton will be offering a prayer-filled farewell to Pope Benedict XVI as his pontificate officially comes to an end at 8 p.m. Rome time on February 28, 2013.

A special Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Benedict XVI begins at 12 noon local time on Thursday at St. Joseph's Basilica. Archbishop Richard Smith be joined at the celebration by about 20 Western Canadian Bishops, who are in Edmonton for their annual meeting, and priests from across the Archdiocese and the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton.

All are welcome to join in this historic celebration. If you cannot attend in person, the event will also be livestreamed at

Pope Benedict unexpectedly announced his resignation on February 11, citing weakening health.

Archbishop Smith, who last visited the Holy Father in November 2012, says the Church has been enriched by the clarity and beauty of Benedict's teachings.

"In Pope Benedict XVI we have been blessed with an extraordinarily gifted teacher, who in every letter, speech, message and homily of his Petrine ministry has explained the faith in a manner at once intelligible and attractive," Archbishop Smith said. "This wonderful servant of the truth has taught us, time and again, that the truth is beautiful, and that we must allow ourselves to be embraced by it if we are to be truly free."

Some useful background documents: