Now the initial shock seems to be subsiding, it is fair to ask what has defined Pope Benedict's papacy.
Certainly he has been less energetic than Pope John Paul II, and less charismatic, but then if you look at the Popes we have had since the Second World War you can see each of the six Popes is fairly different in character, albeit with some similarities
But what Benedict XVI and John Paul II do have in common, aside from being theologically conservative, are the capacity to surprise and the capacity to say and do things which impress liberals as well, as BBC Correspondent Edward Stourton has pointed out in this piece. Over the past eight years Pope Benedict has somewhat softened his hardline approach, has echoed Pope John Paul I (three of whose general audiences were on faith, hope, and love) by writing just three encyclicals on Faith, Hope, and Love (hardly what you'd expect from a stereotypical hardline conservative), and has attacked western consumerism. He has also, so we are told, worked hard to see reform for the better following the sex abuse allegations, (although perhaps not bringing in enough reforms). Plus he has had the grace and humility to know when it is time to step aside from the throne of Peter
Time will tell ultimately however, just what sort of Pope he was, for better or worse