An estimated 150,000 people—about 100,000 more than had requested tickets—showed up today at the Vatican to hear Pope Benedict deliver his final general address in St. Peter’s Square before he officially calls it quits tomorrow. As the Associated Press reports from the ground, the mood was a whole lot more festive than at your typical run-of-the-mill address from the Vatican:
An estimated 150,000 people, many toting banners saying “Grazie!” (“Thank you!”), jammed the piazza to bid Benedict farewell and hear his final speech as pontiff. In this appointment—which he has kept each week for eight years to teach the world about the Catholic faith—Benedict gave deep thanks to his flock for respecting his decision to retire. …
With chants of “Benedetto!” erupting often, the mood was far more buoyant than during the pope’s final Sunday blessing. It recalled the jubilant turnouts that often accompanied him at World Youth Days and events involving his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
The soon-to-be pope emeritus took a long victory lap along the square before it was all over, stopping to kiss and bless a half-dozen or so children. Tomorrow morning he’ll meet with the cardinals before taking a helicopter ride to Castel Gandolfo, where he’ll spend the first part of his retirement before returning for good to the Vatican. At 8 p.m. local time tomorrow, the Swiss Guards will officially go off duty, marking an official end to Benedict’s papacy.
Here’s the video of today’s address:
And the snippet he delivered in English: