Pope Benedict Says Farewell, Recounts Joys And Struggles
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday morning to a crowd of 150,000 holding signs of gratitude to say farewell. Yet, instead of the typical "catechism lessons" Benedict was accustomed to giving for his Wednesday audiences, the speech was much more personal, sharing both the joy and the struggles he faced during his papacy.
The Associated Press Reported:
"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 that a pope has no privacy: "He belongs always and forever to everyone, to the whole church." But he promised that in retirement he would not be returning to private life — instead taking on a new experience of service to the church through prayer.He recalled that when he was elected pope on April 19, 2005, he questioned if God truly wanted it. "'It's a great burden that you've placed on my shoulders,'" he recalled telling God.
Benedict not only reflected on the struggles he himself faced but on the future challenges ahead for the Catholic Church. According to the Wall Street Journal, Benedict was praised for his writings during his time as pope and attracted large crowds during his time abroad.
However, his papacy also faced controversy with growing revelations of sex abuse claims and "bouts of infighting within Vatican ranks." The Journal reported "that tumult has drawn calls from within Vatican walls and beyond for the election of a successor, capable of reining in the Church's sprawling ranks."
Benedict, 85, also said he had "suffered" over his decision to resign after his eight years as pope . The pontiff had announced he was stepping down from the papacy two weeks ago due to advanced age, becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years. The resignation will be official on Thursday at 8 p.m. in which Benedict will be "whisked by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. He will return to Vatican City once the renovations are complete on his new residence: a former convent," reported the Wall Street Journal.
The papal conclave, which will begin next week, has already been facing controversy with petitions requesting that Cardinal Roger Mahony– the emeritus archbishop of Los Angeles– not attend due to his failure to report priests accused of sex abuse.
According to The Guardian, Benedict also stressed on Wednesday that though he is stepping away, he intends to stay closely connected to the church:
"I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the crucified Lord," he said, adding in separate remarks in English: "I will continue to accompany the church with my prayers and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new pope."
To applause, he reiterated his reasons for resigning, saying: "Loving the church also means having the courage to make difficult and anguished choices, always keeping the church in mind, not oneself."
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