Pope thanks final audience at Vatican
Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican for Pope Benedict’s final general audience.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke to a crowd of thousands cheering him in St Peter’s square, thanking them from the bottom of his heart for coming out to see him. He admitted he faced “choppy waters” during his eight years at the helm of the Roman Catholic Church, but says he was guided by God and felt his presence every day.
“I feel I need to thank God who guides the church and feeds faith. Right now my soul is open to embrace the entire church and I’d like to thank everybody for the help I have received”.
The 85 year old will retire tomorrow and will be the first pope to abdicate since Gregory XII in 1415. His successor will be chosen in a conclave to take place in March, before Holy Week in the lead up to Easter.
Pope Benedict told the crowd his papacy had been “a heavy burden” but he accepted it because he was sure that God would guide him.
At times he said he felt like “St Peter with his apostles on the Lake of Galilee”, making reference to the Biblical story when the disciples were battling against heavy waves and Jesus Christ appeared to them.
The surprise announcement of his abdication, that shocked Catholics around the world, has required the rules of electing a successor to be changed to allow the next pope to be chosen.
“I took this step [resignation] in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit,” he said in his address.
After Benedict XVI steps down, he will become known as “pope emeritus”.