by Rachel Ogbu
100,000 pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square to hear Benedict XVI’s emotional goodbye speech. There the Pope revealed that he is stepping aside because God told him to.
He said his resignation was ordained by God who had called on him to devote himself to prayer. He said God had told him ‘to climb the mountain’.
He thanked catholics for their closeness and affection and insisted he was ‘not abandoning the church.’ Instead, he said he’ll serve the church with the same dedication he has until now, but will do so ‘in a way more suitable to my age and my strength’.
It was predicted that it was going to rain heavily in Rome at the time the Pope was to address the people and some drizzle dampened the square earlier in the morning, but according to reports, as Pope Benedict appeared, to the peal of church bells as the clock struck noon, blue sky crept through the clouds.
‘We thank God for the sun he has given us,’ the Pope said.
The Daily Mail reports:
He also said he would continue to serve through meditation and prayer after his historic abdication.
He completed the last Angelus of his tenure by saying he will always be close to the Church and its people.
A child in the crowd held up a sign on a yellow placard, written in Italian, ‘You are not alone, I’m with you’. Other admirers held signs simply saying ‘Thank you’.
The 85-year-old will spend his last years in seclusion in a cloistered monastery within the confines of Vatican City.
The Pope officially steps down on Thursday. He resigned two weeks ago, saying he no longer has the mental or physical strength to lead the world’s 1.2billion Catholics. It is the first time a Pope has stepped down in 600 years.
Vatican-watchers have speculated that his declining health is a key factor.
It has subsequently emerged that the Pope had had a secret heart operation to replace a pace-maker three months ago.
The Pontiff also suffered a head wound during an official visit to Mexico last year, which was said to have shaken him.
Senior church figure Vincenzo Paglia, the Bishop of Terni, has claimed the Pope’s memory had deteriorated and that he suffered from occasional spells of lack of consciousness.
Other theories have placed Benedict at the centre of a plot by a rebel faction of cardinals unhappy with his handling of the sexual abuse crisis.
The Vatican earlier this week rubbished Italian media reports alleging the pope’s resignation was linked to a secret dossier claiming there is a ‘gay network’ inside the clergy.
Italian newspapers have been rife with unsourced reports claiming the secret dossier from three cardinals reveals an underground network of senior clergy who have organised gay homosexual parties and faced blackmail.
La Repubblica newspaper claimed the explosive allegations were made in a report into the so-called ‘Vatileaks’ scandal which was presented to the Pontiff on or around December 17.
But the Vatican accused Italian media of spreading ‘false and damaging’ reports in an attempt to influence cardinals who will meet in a secret conclave next month to elect a new pope.
The Pope has just one more public appearance, at his weekly audience on Wednesday.
No date has yet been set for the start of the conclave of cardinals, who will vote in secret to elect Benedict’s successor.
One Italian in the crowd seemed to be doing a little campaigning, hoisting a sign which mentioned the name of two Italian cardinals considered by observers to be potential contenders in the selection of the next pontiff.
The cardinals in the conclave will have to decide whether it’s time to look outside of Europe for a pope.
Meanwhile Britain’s most senior Catholic clergyman, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has been reported to the Vatican for alleged inappropriate behaviour, it emerged last night.
Three priests and one former priest have sent statements to the papal nuncio, Antonio Mennini, alleging impropriety dating back to 1980.
As head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, next week O’Brien will be part of the conclave choosing the next Pope, but now he faces demands for his immediate resignation.
As reported by The Observer, one of the priests alleges that he has needed counselling after an inappropriate relationship with O’Brien.
A second complainant said that he was 18-years-old when O’Brien made an inappropriate approach after night prayers.
A third said he was invited to ‘get to know’ O’Brien at the archbishop’s residence only to face ‘unwanted behaviour’ from O’Brien after late-night drinking.
The four are all from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
A spokesman for the cardinal said that he contests the allegations.