The crowd spilled over into the adjacent Via della Conciliazione, which had been closed to motorized traffic, and the Vatican estimated turnout at 150,000.
Abandoning his usual practice of giving a catechetical talk on a devotional text or theme at public audiences, the pope spoke about his time as pope and his historic decision to resign. He looked tired but composed as he read his speech, and he smiled at the frequent interruptions by applause.
Pope Benedict recalled his almost eight-year pontificate as a time of “joy and light, but also difficult moments.”
“The Lord has given us so many days of sun and light breeze, days in which the catch of fish has been abundant, There have also been moments in which the waters were turbulent and the wind contrary, as throughout the history of the church, and the Lord seemed to be asleep,” he said. “But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat and that the boat of the church is not mine, it is not ours, but it is his and he does not let it sink. Whoever assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy,” he said. “He belongs always and totally to all, to the whole church.
“My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this,” he said. “I am not returning to private life, a life of trips, meetings, receptions, conferences, etc. I am not abandoning the cross, but remain in a new way beside the crucified Lord. I no longer carry the power of office for the government of the church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s precincts.”
The pope thanked his collaborators in the Vatican, making special mention of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as secretary of state is the highest Vatican official. Cardinal Bertone, who has drawn blame for the mismanagement sensationally documented in the 2012 “VatiLeaks” of confidential correspondence, “has accompanied me faithfully in these years,” the pope said.
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