Pope Benedict XVI’s address at his final weekly audience on Wednesday acknowledged the seriousness of his papal oath—its “always and forever”—while describing the hardships of the nearly eight years that have passed since he took it.
“When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, , I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me,” the pope said to a crowd numbering more than 100,000 by Vatican estimates gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
He likened his journey to that of St. Peter and the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee, saying, “the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been.”
This is a time of declining faith, the pope said. In his resignation declaration given on Feb. 11, he said it is a time in which a pope of great strength—physical and spiritual—is needed.
The last pope to abdicate was Pope Gregory XII in 1415 in a move that helped end the Great Schism, a period of 40 years during which there were three claimants to the papacy.
Pope Benedict XVI said, “I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind.”
He said the “always and forever” of his papal oath still apply, as he will never return fully to private life.
“I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church,” he said, “but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds.”
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