Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday told tens of thousands of pilgrims in St Peter’s Square in a voice breaking with emotion that he was resigning because God had called on him to devote himself to prayer
Pope Benedict XVI has given his pontificate’s final Sunday blessing from his studio window to the cheers of tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.
Benedict says even though he’s retiring on Thursday from the papacy, the first pope in 600 years to do so, he’s “not abandoning the church.”
In a voice breaking with emotion that he was resigning because God had called on him to devote himself to prayer but said he would not forsake a Church role.
Instead he says he’ll serve the church with the same dedication he has till now, but will do so in a way “more suitable to my age and my strength.”
Benedict, 85, will spend his last years in prayer, meditation and seclusion in a monastery on Vatican City’s grounds.
He has one more public appearance, at his weekly audience on Wednesday in the square.
The pope, addressing tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, also said he would continue to serve by praying and meditating after his historic abdication on Thursday.
He said God had called him “to climb the mountain”.
Heavy rain had been forecast for Rome, and some drizzle dampened the square earlier in the morning. But when Benedict appeared, to the peal of church bells as the clock struck noon, blue sky crept through the clouds.
“We thank God for the sun he has given us,” the pope said, sounding cheerful.
As cheers continued in the crowd, the pontiff simply turned away from the window and stepped back down into apartment, which he will leave on Thursday, taking a helicopter to the Vatican summer residence in the hills outside Rome while he waits for the monastery to be ready.
A child in the crowd held up a sign on a yellow placard, written in Italian, “You are not alone, I’m with you.” Other admirers held homemade signs, saying “Grazie.”
No date has yet been set for the start of the conclave of cardinals, who will vote in secret to elect Benedict’s successor.
One Italian in the crowd seemed to be doing a little campaigning, hoisting a sign which mentioned the name of two Italian cardinals considered by observers to be potential contenders in the selection of the next pontiff.
Flags in the crowd represented many nations, with a large number from Brazil.
The cardinals in the conclave will have to decide whether it’s time to look outside of Europe for a pope.