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In front of rapt crowds, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of moments of joy and struggle Wednesday during his final public address from a stage set up in St. Peter’s Square.Dressed all in white and looking serene, the pope used his last general audience to call for a renewal of faith and speak of his own spiritual journey through eight years as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, CNN reports.As he finished, cheers erupted from the tens of thousands gathered in the square – acknowledged by Benedict with an open-armed embrace.As well as calling for a renewal of faith, he used his last general audience to discuss his experience as pontiff and his almost unprecedented decision to abdicate the role starting Thursday.Benedict recounted how when he was asked to be pope eight years ago, he had prayed for God’s guidance. “And the Lord has really driven, I was close, I could feel his presence every day,” he said. “It was a part of the journey of the Church that has had moments of joy and light, but also moments that were not easy.” The Church is like a boat that passes through stormy seas, but God will “not let her sink,” he said.He thanked the cardinals, the clergy in Rome, Vatican officials and priests worldwide, as well as their congregations, saying “the heart of a pope extends to the whole world.”He had taken the step of resignation well aware of its seriousness and novelty, but also “with a deep peace of mind,” he said.“In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God earnestly in prayer to enlighten me with his light to make me take the right decision not for my sake, but for the good of the Church,” he said.“Loving the Church also means having the courage to make tough choices,” he said, as he called on the faithful to pray for him and the new pope.Benedict gave an insight into the life of the pontiff, describing it as without any kind of privacy, with his time devoted entirely to the Church – perhaps particularly difficult for a man known for his love of scholarship.
On the other hand, BBC informs that Pope Benedict XVI has admitted he faced “choppy waters” during his eight years at the helm of the Roman Catholic Church, but says he was guided by God and felt his presence every day.At times he “felt like St Peter with his apostles on the Lake of Galilee”, he said, making reference to the Biblical story when the disciples were battling against heavy waves and Jesus Christ appeared to them. The Pope, 85, will retire on Thursday – the first pope to abdicate since Gregory XII in 1415.His successor will be chosen in a conclave to take place in March.A conclave beginning in mid-March would have left little time to have a new pope installed for one of the most important periods in the Catholic calendar, Holy Week, leading up to Easter, which begins on 24 March. After Benedict XVI steps down, he will become known as “pope emeritus”.
He will retain the honorific “His Holiness” after his abdication and will continue to be known by his papal title of Benedict XVI, rather than reverting to Joseph Ratzinger.He will wear his distinctive white cassock without any cape or trimmings, but will surrender his gold ring of office and his personal seal will be destroyed. He will also give up wearing his red shoes.His personal archive of documents will be packed up and, at 20:00 on Thursday, the Swiss Guard on duty at his Castel Gandolfo residence will be dismissed, to be replaced by Vatican police. This will mark the formal end of his papacy and the beginning of the period of transition to his successor.