The Pope speaks of “difficult moments” in his final address
Pope Benedict XVI gave an emotional final address to his flock yesterday, on the eve of his retirement. In recalling his 8 years of papacy, the pontiff mentioned times of “joy and light” but also difficult moments when “it seemed like the Lord was sleeping.”
Over 150,000 people flooded St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s last address in the role, to bear witness to the final hours of a papacy that will make history as the first in 600 years to end in resignation rather than death.
The Pope stunned the Roman Catholic Church when he announced a few weeks ago that he no longer had the mental or physical strength to continue in the role.
In his speech he assured that he is aware of the “gravity” of his decision to step down, but that it was for the good of the Church.
The leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide clearly enjoyed the occasion, circumnavigating St. Peter’s Square in the Popemobile for the last time, stopping to kiss and bless babies and infants.
Seventy cardinals gave him a solemn ovation at the end of his speech, some having arrived early for the Conclave, the election of a new Pope.
The pontiff personally addressed his flock with a heartfelt message, saying that he was not abandoning them.
“To love the Church means also to have the courage to take difficult, painful decisions, always keeping the good of the Church in mind, not oneself,” the Pope proclaimed to thundering applause.
He also noted as a warning for his successor that the role admits no privacy, neither as Pope nor as Emeritus Pope: “He belongs always and forever to everyone, to the whole church.”
At the end of his speech Benedict XVI thanked his cardinals and colleagues for their support and for “understanding and respecting this important decision”.
His papacy was also beset by the clerical sex abuse scandal, discord over important doctrinal issues such as priestly celibacy and women’s ordination and more recently, the betrayal of his own butler Mr. Paolo Gabriele, who stole the Pope’s private documents.
Benedict XVI, 85, resigns today, ending his papacy at 8 pm. This morning he met the cardinal’s part of the Conclave, the Church body in charge of electing his successor.
At 5pm he will leave the Vatican on a helicopter to spend some time at his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, where by 8.01pm he will have the title of “Pope Emeritus”.