Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Emotional Pope bids farewell in final address

  • Print

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI bid an emotional farewell Wednesday on the eve of his retirement, recalling moments of "joy and light" during his papacy, but also times of difficulty when "it seemed like the Lord was sleeping."

Some 150,000 people, many waving banners proclaiming "Grazie!" flooded St. Peter's Square, eager to bear witness to the final hours of a papacy that will go down in history as the first in 600 years to end in resignation rather than death.

Benedict basked in the emotional send-off, taking a long victory lap around the square in an open-sided car, and stopping to kiss and bless half a dozen babies. Seventy cardinals, some tearful, sat in solemn attendance -- and gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Benedict then made a quick exit, forgoing the meet-and-greet session that typically follows his weekly general audience, as if to not prolong the goodbye.

Given the weight of the moment, Benedict also replaced his usual Wednesday catechism lesson with a heartfelt final address, explaining once again why he was retiring and assuring his flock of 1.2 billion 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," Benedict said to thundering applause.

He noted a pontiff has no privacy -- neither as pope, nor in his future role as emeritus pope: "He belongs always and forever to everyone, to the whole church."

During his eight years as Pope, Benedict said he had had "moments of joy and light, but also moments that haven't been easy. ...Moments of turbulent seas and rough winds, as has occurred in the history of the church, when it seemed like the Lord was sleeping."

But he said he never felt alone, that God always guided him, and he thanked his cardinals and colleagues for their support and for "understanding and respecting this important decision."

The Pope's tenure has been beset by the clerical sex abuse scandal, discord over everything from priestly celibacy to women's ordination, and most recently the betrayal by his own butler, who stole his private papers and leaked them to a journalist.

Under a bright sun and blue skies, the square was overflowing with pilgrims and curiosity-seekers. Those who couldn't get in watched on giant TV screens set up along the main boulevard leading to the square. About 50,000 tickets were requested, and in the end, the Vatican estimated 150,000 people flocked to the farewell.

"It's difficult -- the emotion is so big," said Jan Marie, a 53-year-old Roman in his first years as a seminarian. "We came to support the pope's decision."

With chants of "Benedetto!" the mood was far more buoyant than during the Pope's final Sunday blessing. It recalled the jubilant turnouts that often accompanied him at World Youth Days and events involving his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

Benedict has said he decided to retire after realizing that, at 85, he simply didn't have the "strength of mind or body" to carry on.

"I have taken this step with the full understanding of the seriousness and also the novelty of the decision, but with a profound serenity in my soul," Benedict told the crowd.

He will meet this morning with his cardinals for a final time, then fly by helicopter to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

There, at 8 p.m., the doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards in attendance will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church over -- for now.

Many of the cardinals who will choose Benedict's successor were in St. Peter's Square for his final audience. Among them was retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, the object of a grassroots campaign in the U.S. to persuade him to recuse himself for having covered up for sexually abusive priests.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 28, 2013 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Rumor's 30th Anniversary with Mike Wilmot, Darryl Lenox, Dave Hemstad & Derek Edwards

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Has the throne speech renewed your confidence in the provincial government?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google