Pope Benedict XVI issues final thanks

‘I have had moments of joy and light, but also moments that haven’t been easy’

Pope Benedict XVI opens his arms during his final general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

Pope Benedict XVI addressed thousands of people in Saint Peter’s Square for the final time Wednesday, on the day before he will step down.

The pope has delivered a catechism lesson every Wednesday, but this message took on a personal tone, rather than teaching a lesson about the Catholic Church.

“I was deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of the many of you, not only in Rome, but around the world,” he said. “The decision I have made after much prayer is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and the deep love of Christ’s church.

“I will continue to accompany the church with my prayers and ask each of you to pray for me, and for the new pope.”

He also addressed the difficulties of his position during his eight years as pope. “I have had moments of joy and light, but also moments that haven’t been easy … moments of turbulent seas and rough winds,” he said.

Part of those difficulties may have been around privacy. Speaking in Italian, the pontiff told the crowd that the pope “belongs always and forever to everyone, to the whole church.” But, he said he will not make public appearances after his resignation.

(Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

An estimated 150,000 people gathered to hear his final address, with many holding banners reading “Grazie!” and “Thank You.”

After his address Pope Benedict used his open-sided car, the pope-mobile, to make his way through the crowd in the square, stopping to bless children along the way.

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