February 27, 2013

Pope recalls 'joy' of papacy, and difficulties

Nicole Winfield / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. Pope Benedict XVI greeted the Catholic masses in St. Peter's Square Wednesday for the last time before retiring, making several rounds of the square as crowds cheered wildly and stopping to kiss a half-dozen children brought up to him by his secretary. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

AP

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Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday for the final time before retiring, waving to tens of thousands of people who have gathered to bid him farewell. At one point he stopped to kiss a baby handed up to him by his secretary.

AP

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Benedict on Thursday will become the first pope in 600 years to resign, a decision he said he took after realizing that, at 85, he simply didn't have the strength of mind or body to carry on. He will meet Thursday morning with cardinals for a final time, then fly by helicopter to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

There, at 8 p.m., the doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards in attendance will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church over – for now.

Many of the cardinals who will choose Benedict's successor were in St. Peter's Square for his final audience, including retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, object of a grass-roots campaign in the U.S. to persuade him to recuse himself for having covered up for sexually abusive priests. Mahony has said he will vote.

Vatican officials say cardinals will begin meeting on Monday to decide when to set the date for the conclave to elect the next pope.

But the rank-and-file in the crowd on Wednesday weren't so concerned with the future; they wanted to savor the final moments with the pope they have known for eight years.

"I came to thank him for the testimony that he has given the church," said Maria Cristina Chiarini, a 52-year-old homemaker who traveled by train early Wednesday from Lugo, near Ravenna, with some 60 members of her parish. "There's nostalgia, human nostalgia, but also comfort, because as a Christian we have hope. The Lord won't leave us without a guide."

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Additional Photos

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Pope Benedict XVI waves to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday after making several rounds of the square as crowds cheered wildly.

AP

  


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