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. (Read more Pope Benedict XVI stories.)