Benedict's Farewell: Sometimes Lord Seemed to Sleep

Crowd tops 150K for his last general audience

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 27, 2013 4:05 AM CST | Updated Feb 27, 2013 7:49 AM CST

(Newser) – It's Benedict XVI's penultimate day of pontificating, and tens of thousands of the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for an emotional farewell in which the pope recalled the "great burden" God had given him in 2005 and noted that his papacy had weathered difficult moments when "it seemed like the Lord was sleeping." But there were also "days of sun and light," Sky News reports. Benedict said he wasn't "coming down from the cross," but that "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." He recalled "turbulent seas," but said, "I always knew that the boat of the church is not mine, is not ours, but is his and he will not let it sink."

The Vatican estimates the crowd hit 150,000, far exceeding the 50,000 who requested tickets for the pope's last general audience, reports Reuters. The position will officially become vacant at 8pm tomorrow, after which the "pope emeritus" will cast aside his red shoes, switch to plain brown loafers, and head for the papal summer residence until renovations to a monastery inside the Vatican are complete.

Cardinals arrive in St. Peter's Square.
Cardinals arrive in St. Peter's Square.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
A Vatican Swiss Guard stands in front of St. Peter's Basilica.
A Vatican Swiss Guard stands in front of St. Peter's Basilica.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Nuns wave an Indian, left, and Argentine flags in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
Nuns wave an Indian, left, and Argentine flags in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Faithful gather to attend Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Faithful gather to attend Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience in St. Peter's Square.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Faithful  gather to attend Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Faithful gather to attend Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience in St. Peter's Square.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square for the final time before retiring.
Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square for the final time before retiring.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Pope Benedict XVI is seen leaving St. Peter's Square on his pope-mobile after his last general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI is seen leaving St. Peter's Square on his pope-mobile after his last general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during his final general audience in St.Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during his final general audience in St.Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
In this photo taken with a fisheye lens, faithful leave St. Peter's Square after Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
In this photo taken with a fisheye lens, faithful leave St. Peter's Square after Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
People crowd St. Peter's Square where Pope Benedict XVI is celebrating his last general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
People crowd St. Peter's Square where Pope Benedict XVI is celebrating his last general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Pope Benedict XVI is seen at right as he arrives on his pope-mobile to his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI is seen at right as he arrives on his pope-mobile to his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Pope Benedict XVI is seen on a giant screen during his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI is seen on a giant screen during his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Pope Benedict XVI waves as he is driven through the crowd during his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI waves as he is driven through the crowd during his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Faithful gather for Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Faithful gather for Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Close up of the hand of Pope Benedict XVI as he greets pilgrims at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Close up of the hand of Pope Benedict XVI as he greets pilgrims at the end of his general audience in St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Benedict XVI leaves after celebrating his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI leaves after celebrating his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Faithful are reflected in the roof of Pope Benedict XVI's pope-mobile as he arrives to celebrate his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Faithful are reflected in the roof of Pope Benedict XVI's pope-mobile as he arrives to celebrate his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Benedict XVI reads a message during his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI reads a message during his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Benedict XVI opens his arms during his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI opens his arms during his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
A man cries during Pope Benedict XVI's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
A man cries during Pope Benedict XVI's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Benedict XVI talks to personal secretary George Gaenswein as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.
Pope Benedict XVI talks to personal secretary George Gaenswein as he leaves his general audience in St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square for the final time before retiring.
Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square for the final time before retiring.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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