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Emotional Pope Benedict Bids Farewell – Says He Resigned For Good Of Church

pope Benedict resign

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict bid an emotional farewell at his last general audience on Wednesday, saying he understood the gravity of his decision to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years but that he had done it for the good of the Roman Catholic Church.

“Thank you, I am very moved,” Benedict told a cheering crowd of more than 150,000 people in St Peter’s Square a day before he becomes the first pope to step down in some six centuries.

He said he had great trust in the Church’s future, that his abdication was for the good of the Church and asked for prayers for cardinals choosing his successor at a time of crisis.

The Vatican said the address, repeatedly interrupted by applause and cries of “Benedict, Benedict” – was the last by the pope, who as of Thursday evening will have the title “pope emeritus.”

“There were moments of joy and light but also moments that were not easy … there were moments, as there were throughout the history of the Church, when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed that the Lord was sleeping,” he said.

When he finished the crowd, which spilled over into surrounding streets and included many of the red-hatted cardinals who will elect his successor in a closed doors conclave next month, stood to applaud.

“I took this step in the full knowledge of its gravity and rarity but with a profound serenity of spirit,” he said, as people in the crowd wave supportive banners and national flags.

Loving the Church meant, “having the courage to take difficult and anguished choices, always having in mind the good of the church and not oneself,” he said.

The pope says he is too old and weak to continue leading a Church beset by crises over child ab**se by priests and a leak of confidential Vatican documents showing corruption and rivalry among Vatican officials.

He said he was not “coming down from the cross” but would serve the Church through prayer.

Some of those who have faulted Benedict for resigning have pointed to the late Pope John Paul, who said he would “not come down from the cross” despite his bad health because he believed his suffering could inspire others.

By Philip Pullella

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