Pope Benedict XVI's final audience: Live Report
- Published: 27/02/2013 at 03:43 PM
- Online news:
As crowds filter out of St Peter's Square, AFP is closing its live report on Pope Benedict's final audience.
Pope Benedict XVI waves from the altar during his last weekly audience on February 27, 2013 at St Peter's Square at the Vatican.
-- Earlier, addressing huge crowds of faithful, the pope admitted "stormy waters" for the Church during his pontificate but said God would will "not let it sink".
-- Benedict toured the Vatican plaza in his famous "popemobile", stopping to kiss children and waving to the more than 100,000 people gathered.
-- The pope acknowledged the "gravity and novelty" of his resignation -- the first of its kind since the Middle Ages. But he said he took the decision "with profound serenity of spirit".
-- The 85-year-old will officially step down Thursday when he will give one more wave from his balcony before being whisked off by helicopter to the papal summer residence near Rome to begin a life out of the public eye.
LIVE REPORT ENDS
1137 GMT: As the pope leaves the square a group of monks and nuns wait at the Vatican's side gate in the hope of getting a glimpse, our reporter Eleanor Ide tells us.
"It was a lovely audience, the pope seemed serene and moved by the crowds", one cardinal told journalists as he left the square.
Pilgrims with backpacks and sleeping bags who travelled from Spain sing and play guitars under the balustrades on St Peter's Square
1130 GMT: Pope has just tweeted (from @pontifex) : "If only everyone could experience the joy of being Christian, being loved by God who gave his Son for us!"
1125 GMT: Pilgrims singing hymns begin filing out of the square, others wrapped in flags sit in groups on the cobbles, soaking up the atmosphere, Eleanor Ide tells us.
Once he steps down officially Thursday, the pope will begin his retirement in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, a sumptuous villa outside Rome with ornamental gardens and breathtaking views. He will spend around two months there before withdrawing to a monastery within the Vatican grounds.
1120 GMT: Hundreds of cardinals and bishops in their red and pink-sashed robes applaud Benedict as he winds his way round the square in this vehicle.
A group of cheerful Capuchin friars from China, Romania and Italy wearing brown cassocks and trendy sunglasses say the German pope was "a father figure, who we'll miss very much, but who we wish well in his retirement."
1115 GMT: Warm words for the pope from many of those gathered... One fan, from Vietnam, who is training to be a priest, tells AFP: "I love the pope, I'm sad that he's leaving, but he has made a grand gesture of love for the Church."
Twelve-year old Giulia, who has come to see the audience with her school, says: "He won't be pope officially anymore, but he'll always be special to me."
1110 GMT: "Priests wearing paper hats made out of the Vatican's Avvenire newspaper to shield them from the hot Roman sun cheer and wave as Benedict gets back into his popemobile," AFP's Eleanor Ide reports.
There's a festive atmosphere as a band strikes up. But it's also an emotional time for many faithful. One woman clutching a rosary wipes away tears as the elderly Benedict passes.
1104 GMT: Prayers are being said in a number of languages -- French, English, German, Italian, with the pope saying a few words in each.
The warmest cheers come from Italians in the crowd, who are out in force, our correspondent Gildas Le Roux tells us.
1056 GMT: More on that speech: "I am deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world," Pope Benedict told the crowds.
"I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope."
1049 GMT: Pope Benedict gets a standing ovation from the cardinals as he finishes speaking, AFP's Gildas Le Roux reports. Several among the crowd shout: "Viva il papa!"
More to follow on his speech...
1036 GMT: "WITH YOU IN PRAYER": The pope says he will accompany the Church in prayer after his resignation.
1031 GMT: The speech is being broadcast on giant screens for those who haven't managed to get close enough for a glimpse of the pontiff.
Some 50,000 people already had tickets ahead of the event, while another 150,000 were expected to try to attend, Vatican City authorities said.
1025 GMT: "GRAVITY AND NOVELTY": Pope says he is aware of the "gravity and novelty" of his resignation -- the first of its kind since the Middle Ages.
Bursts of applause as he explains his motivation for stepping down.
"I took this step in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit," he says.
1021 GMT: In a Biblical analogy, Pope Benedict tells the crowds: "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."
1017 GMT: Pilgrims snap away with their cameras to immortalise this unique moment. The backdrop, the majestic basilica and the huge Tuscan collonades designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
1012 GMT: "STORMY WATERS": Addressing his audience the pope says the Church is going through "stormy waters" but God will not let it sink.
His speech is accompanied by rhythmic applause from the tens of thousands assembled before him.
1007 GMT: The pope has got out of his vehicle and taken his place on the altar, having greeted the cardinals in attendance, Gildas Le Roux tells us. Rapturous applause greets him.
He thanks the huge crowds of faithful for being there. More wild applause.
1001 GMT: "Bishops and cardinals applaud as the pope drives up to the altar in front of the basilica," reports Eleanor Ide. "Crowds explode into cheers as he raises his arms in greeting."
0955 GMT: The pope's car stops for a few minutes and he kisses a baby, presented to him by his secretary, says Gildas Le Roux.
0950 GMT: The crowd of more than 100,000 pilgrims cheer and wave flags as the pope passes among them, AFP reporters tell us from the famous Vatican plaza.
Benedict begins a tour of the square to greet and bless the faithful from his familiar glass-sided vehicle, to a soundtrack of organ music.
0942 GMT: POPE ARRIVES IN ST PETER'S SQUARE FOR FINAL AUDIENCE.
Benedict arrives in his trademark white popemobile, waving to crowds which go wild, cheering "long live the pope!", reports AFP's Eleanor Ide.
0937 GMT: Benedict XVI has held some 348 audiences during his pontificate, attended by more than 5 million people, according to the Vatican.
The 85-year-old says he is stepping down because he is too tired and weak to continue with the role, with all that it involves in the modern world.
0932 GMT: Several flags are flying over the crowds of faithful assembled in St Peter's Square, AFP's Gildas Le Roux reports. The white Vatican flag, alongside Italian and German ones.
There are a record number of journalists from around the world at this weekly audience, quizzing the faithful on their reasons for being here and their impressions of the event. Photographers and cameramen battle their way through the crowds. A helicopter hovers overhead.
0923 GMT: To say this is an historic event is no exaggeration. Benedict will be the first pope to step down since Pope Gregory XII abdicated in 1415.
A pilgrim named Alban, who studies at a French seminary in Rome, tells AFP: "It really is a joy for us to be here today for this historic moment. I am not sad, because Benedict XVI is going but Joseph Ratzinger remains with us."
0917 GMT: A testament to the importance of the pope to residents of the Vatican City, one banner reads: "The pope is the heart of this town."
0910 GMT: Huge cheers break out in St Peter's Square as the Vatican welcomes pilgrims over loudspeakers in several languages, AFP's Eleanor Ide tells us.
One group, holding a banner with the words "Benedict pope again!", starts chanting his name.
0906 GMT: Like many pilgrims, Anna Santamaria, a retiree from Orte, near Rome, has travelled by train to the Vatican especially for the final audience. She has mixed feelings about the pope stepping down: "I want to see him one last time. I am at the same time sad and happy. I understand his decision to leave: at his age it's too difficult."
0900 GMT: Not everyone here supports Benedict's resignation. Leonardo Rossi, one of the young stewards from Opus Dei, tells AFP: "I do not share the pope's decision to step down. It is not a fitting time, with all the problems the Church is going through."
0854 GMT: Young people from the religious group Opus Dei are serving as stewards at the entrance to the square, managing the queues of people filing in past metal detectors, our correspondent Gildas Le Roux reports.
Soeur Yolanda, of Mexico says: "I'm sad but at the same time happy for the pope, who is very tired."
0848 GMT: AFP's Eleanor Ide is at the Vatican where she says some among the crowd of faithful are holding up a banner bearing the words "Benedict we'll miss you!"
"Tens of thousands are gathered in the sunshine in St Peter's Square to wait for the pope, with organ music from the cathedral filling the air," she reports.
0843 GMT: The pope's general audiences are usually held inside the Vatican but today's landmark event is being staged in St Peter's Square due to the sheer volume of people wanting to attend.
The Vicar General of Rome, cardinal Agostino Vallini, says city residents will turn out because they feel a special bond with the pope.
"It it something the heart and our faith demands," Vallini tells Vatican Radio.
"Rome likes the pope a lot and feels a special affection for him so it could not miss his last public act."
WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on Pope Benedict XVI's final audience of his pontificate. Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather at the Vatican to bid farewell to the pope on the eve of his historic resignation.
- Streams of pilgrims have already begun to fill St Peter's Square for the general audience, set to start around 10:30 am (0930 GMT).
- The event, which usually lasts around an hour, involves a mixture of prayers and religious instruction from the pope and will begin with Benedict's final tour of the plaza in his white "popemobile".
- The Vatican says 50,000 people have tickets for the event but city authorities have prepared for 200,000, and have metal detectors, snipers and field clinics at the ready.
About the author
- Writer: AFP
Position: News agency