27 February 2013
Signs salute Pope Benedict XVI with words of gratitude as he arrives to lead his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on 27 February. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Benedict XVI held his final public audience this morning. CNS describes the scene:
On his last full day as pope, Pope Benedict XVI delivered an unusually personal and emotional farewell address, thanking the faithful around the world for their support and assuring them that he would remain in their service even in retirement.
“I will continue to accompany the path of the church with prayer and reflection, with that dedication to the Lord and to his bride that I have tried to live every day till now and that I want to live always,” the pope told a crowd in St. Peter’s Square on 27 February, the eve of his resignation.
Under a clear blue sky with temperatures in the low 40s, the pope arrived for his last public audience shortly after 10:30 a.m., standing and waving for almost 15 minutes as his white popemobile made a circuit through the square. Cheering pilgrims waved national flags and banners with slogans such as “always with the pope” and “you will never be alone.”
The crowd spilled over into the adjacent Via della Conciliazione, which had been closed to motorized traffic, and the Vatican estimated turnout at 150,000.
Abandoning his usual practice of giving a catechetical talk on a devotional text or theme at public audiences, the pope spoke about his time as pope and his historic decision to resign. He looked tired but composed as he read his speech, and he smiled at the frequent interruptions by applause.
Pope Benedict recalled his almost eight-year pontificate as a time of “joy and light, but also difficult moments.”
“The Lord has given us so many days of sun and light breeze, days in which the catch of fish has been abundant,” he said, likening himself to St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee.
“There have also been moments in which the waters were turbulent and the wind contrary, as throughout the history of the church, and the Lord seemed to be asleep,” he said. “But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat and that the boat of the church is not mine, it is not ours, but it is his and he does not let it sink.”
Read the full text of the pope’s remarks here. Below, CNS has posted a video of the final blessing of the general audience:
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