TODAY   |  February 27, 2013

Catholic Church in turmoil as pope abdicates

On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s abdication, even the most faithful say his legacy will be mixed as Catholics around the world wonder who will step into his shoes. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> more on the historic abdication of pope benedict xvi and the current state of the catholic church . nbc's anne thompson is here at the vatican with more on that. good to see you.

>> good to see you, too, savannah. as the battle for control of this institution begins, that some say is a holy mess. it's been a tumultuous eight years for the church and benedict, allegations of sex abuse , money laundering at the vatican bank , the pope's own butler stealing documents and reports of political jockeying that could make corporate america or capitol hill blush. alexandra borgese has known the pope for years. she wrote about her friend when he was just cardinal joseph ratzinger .

>> john paul ii was much more vigorous. when he wanted something, he was really now! joseph ratzinger is not now, but is trying to convince -- maybe try to convince to make these people reasoning in a certain way, but he didn't succeed.

>> reporter: even the most faithful say his legacy will be m mixed with great accolades for his teachings and writings but criticism for some of his leadership.

>> success is hard to say. it's not that there's been highs and lows but issues to deal with that have been very serious.

>> reporter: the abuse of children by priests has driven people away from the church.

>> i think there are all kinds of rules and regulations that have been set up to protect children more so that this does not happen again.

>> reporter: the growing consensus is that the next pope must be a strong manager, able to take on the challenges and reign in a dysfunction al. able to lead this institution and charisma never hurt.

>> i hope he will be a man with a vision and can move forward. say to the crowd i love you and be strong. we have to make it together.

>> reporter: her latest book is about the vatican in the 20th century . she says today there's no more fascinating story than the one playing out in st. peter's square. could you make up the drama going on inside the vatican ?

>> i have good fantasy, but i don't think so.

>> reporter: you couldn't make this stuff up?

>> no. nowadays is better than novels.