In his final address as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI thanked the large crowd for its support and recalled joyous and difficult moments of his papacy.
“The Lord gave us days of sun and of light breeze, days in which the fishing was good. There were also moments when there were stormy waters and headwinds, as was the case in the whole history of the church, as if God was sleeping,” the pope said.
Benedict is the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
The German-born Benedict, who had appeared frail at times in recent months, seemed more energized in his remarks today. He has said he will devote more time to prayer and meditation after he leaves the papacy.
Benedict will meet Thursday with his cardinals in the morning and then flies by helicopter at 5 p.m. to Castel Gandolfo, the papal residence south of Rome. Benedict will greet parishioners there from the palazzo’s balcony, his final public act as pope.
Then, at 8 p.m., the exact time at which his retirement becomes official, the Swiss Guards standing outside the doors of the palazzo at Castel Gandolfo will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church finished.
In retirement, Benedict will continue to wear white and will be called “Pope Emeritus,” or the “Supreme Roman Pontiff Emeritus” or “Your Holiness,” the Vatican announced Tuesday