CORRIERE DELLA SERA, LA STAMPA, RAI NEWS, LA REPUBBLICA (Italy)
VATICAN CITY- Pope Benedict XVI presided over his final papal audience Wednesday before a crowd of some 200,000, reaffirming his own faith and a conviction that his historic decision to resign was for the good of the Church.
Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that the faithful began flocking to St.Peter’s Square early Wednesday for the for 10:30 a.m. weekly general audience. Benedict, 85, who cited his lack of strength to continue in the papacy, is set to step down Thursday at 8 p.m. local time.
The pope spoke about the joy of being a Christian, a phrase that was sent out just after the audience in what may be his last tweet on the @Pontifex handle:
If only everyone could experience the joy of being Christian, being loved by God who gave his Son for us!— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) February 27, 2013
The Pope thanked everyone for their understanding about his decision to resign, and said he has not felt alone once since he announced it. “I made this difficult choice for the sake of the Church, having always put His will before my own.”
Speaking in Italian, French, English, German and Latin, Benedict said that God will guide the Church in the coming weeks as it picks his successor. He stressed the importance of trust during the proceedings, especially when faced with personal or collective difficulties.
“At this moment I have great faith," he said. "The community of believers hears and receives the word of God and this is my faith.
“On April 19, eight years ago when I accepted the Petrine ministry, I had a solid assurance... in that moment my words were ‘Lord, why are you asking this of me?’ It is a heavy weight that you’re putting on my shoulders but if you are asking me to accept it, surely you will help me with it as well as with all my weaknesses.”
Tu sei sacerdote per sempre (Sal 110, 4) twitter.com/CardRavasi/sta…— Gianfranco Ravasi (@CardRavasi) February 27, 2013
("You are a priest forever," Ravisi, an Italian Cardinal, is considered a potential successor)
Earlier, as he arrived at the audience, the Pope circled St. Peter's Square in his ‘popemobile’, Benedict was said to be eager to greet as many people as he could, writes RAI News24. The Pontiff was applauded, and one person was heard calling out: “Holy Father, we love you, pray for us”; another said: “You are Peter and we young people love you.”
The crowd boasted flags from all around the world, including from China, Brazil, Egypt, Bolivia, the U.S. and Cameroon, reports La Stampa. This audience was his 348th, according to La Repubblica. Every Wednesday morning, as is custom, he met with pilgrims and other faithful. The Rome paper reports that a total of 5,116,600 people attended all of Benedict XVI’s audiences during his eight-year papacy.