Pope says he is stepping down “for the good of the church.”
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has thanked the public for their “love and prayers”, as he makes his first public appearance since announcing his resignation, the BBC reports. The Pope was cheered by crowds as he entered and began speaking, at a weekly audience in a hall at the Vatican. He said he resigned “for the good of the Church”, aware of his own declining spiritual and physical strength. Later he was due to hold what is expected to be his last public Mass, for Ash Wednesday, in St Peter’s Basilica. The 85-year-old will continue with his diary as usual until the day he officially retires at the end of February, Vatican officials say. By the end of Lent, in six weeks’ time, there is expected to be a new Pope. The Pope held his weekly general audience at its traditional venue, the audience hall in the Vatican. Thousands of people gathered in the hall to greet him, giving him a standing ovation as he arrived, and cheering as he began and finished speaking. Pope Benedict thanked them for their warm greeting and their sympathy. “Thank you for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me… Keep praying for me, for the Church and for the future pope,” he said. He said he was aware of the gravity of his decision to resign but also of his declining strength, adding that he was certain the Church would sustain him with prayer. “I did this in full liberty for the good of the Church,” he added. The afternoon Mass has been relocated. The pontiff had been scheduled to celebrate Ash Wednesday at the small Sant’ Anselmo church, then lead a procession to Santa Sabina Basilica on Rome’s Aventine Hill. The Vatican said the change to St Peter’s was to accommodate the crowds, but it will also save the Pope the effort of the procession.
Assassination plot speculations
A year ago on February 10, 2012 the Italian daily newspaper “Il Fatto Quotidiano” published a document according to which Pope Benedict XVI was at risk of being killed. The report claimed a confidential document was delivered to the Vatican, saying the Archbishop of Palermo had been told by a reliable source of a serious plot to kill the Pope within 12 months. Antonio Padellaro, Il fatto Quotidiano’s Editorial Director, told Euronews the Vatican’s spokesman reacted angrily at first and threatened legal action for defamation, before doing an about turn. “Father Lombardi was obliged to admit that the document did exist but said it wasn’t to be taken seriously, it was fantasy. Now we’ve seen that the contrary was true,” he said. The plot remains unproven. For another Italian paper, the Corriere della Sera, Benedict’s departure is an indication of the crisis at the Vatican, and of the Pope’s rebellion against an institution he failed to modernise.