Pope Benedict, the leader of the Roman Catholic world, gave his final general audience today, telling an estimated 150,000 people who gathered in Saint Peter's Square that there were "moments joy and light" during his papacy "but also difficult moments... times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been—and the Lord seemed to sleep." In other words, "I'm Audi 5000!"
Earlier this month, the 85-year-old announced he would resign because "both strength of mind and body" had "deteriorated," surprising many. The NY Times reports, "His exit came as at least a dozen other cardinals tarnished with accusations that they had failed to remove priests accused of sexually abusing minors were among those gathering in Rome to prepare for the conclave... The resignation left officials scrambling to deal with the protocols of his departure as he ceases to be the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics."
The former pontiff will be called Benedict XVI, a pope emeritus. The Times adds, "He will dress in a simple white cassock, forgoing the mozzetta, the elbow-length cape worn by some Catholic clergymen, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters at a news briefing on Tuesday."
Reuters spoke to some who weren't thrilled with Benedict:
"He was a disaster. It's good for everyone that he resigned," said Peter McNamara, 61, an Australian of Irish descent who said he had come to the square "to witness history".
The pope, a theologian and professor, never felt truly comfortable with the weight of the papacy and many Catholics feel that, although he was a towering Church figure, perhaps the cardinals should have chosen someone else in 2005.
"It was clear from the start that he was more at home in a library," said Carla Manton, 65. "A very good man but he realized in his heart that this was the right thing to do for himself and the Church and now he will pray, he will pray for all of us.
You can read the Pope's full remarks here; below is an excerpt:
When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, , I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: "Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me" - and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence.
These years have been a stretch of the Church's pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; Then there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His - and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.