BRUSSELS, Belgium — Outgoing Pope Benedict XVI addressed a crowd of tens of thousands at St. Peters Square in Rome on Feb. 27, in an emotional farewell in which the pontiff claimed that he had resigned while "keeping the good of the church in mind."
Benedict's resignation will take full effect on Feb. 28, making the farewell address the pope's last as the infallible pontiff. Reuters estimates that around 150,000 gathered to witness the pope's farewell, including numerous cardinals who will help to choose his successor.
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According to the New York Times, Benedict's address included references to the journey of St. Peter and the apostles, wherein he noted that God had given him “so many days of sun and light breezes, when the fishing was abundant."
"But there were times when the waters were choppy and, as throughout the history of the church, it looked as if the Lord was sleeping. But I have always known that the Lord was in that boat, that the boat was not mine or ours, but was his and he will not let it founder.”
CBS writes that Benedict took a "long victory lap" around the square and kissed children during his farewell appearance, while noting in his address that to "love the church means also to have the courage to take difficult, painful decisions, always keeping the good of the church in mind, not oneself."
“My decision to renounce the active exercise of the ministry does not change that. I am not returning to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences et cetera. I am not abandoning the cross, but I remain close to the crucified Lord in a new way,” he added, according to the Times.
GlobalPost senior correspondent Paul Ames said to expect the focus to shift now from the pope's departure to intensified speculation over the succession, and the future of the church:
Whoever gets the top will need to tackle the buzz of gossip over Vatican infighting, blackmail and sex scandals surrounding the upper echelons of the Catholic clergy.
Ghanian Cardinal Peter Turkson, has risen to become many people's favorite, Ames said, despite the views of Vatican insiders who say the chances of a first African pope in over 1,000 years are slim due to powerful lobbies backing candidates from Italy or South America.
Irish bookie Paddy Power is offering odds of 11/4 on Turkson. He's followed by Milan's Cardinal Angelo Scola, on 3/1, and another Italian, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, on 4/1.
Age could stand in Turkson's favor in light of Benedict's decision to stand down due to ill health and old age. He's 64, while Scola and Bertone are both in their 70s.
"If you'd rather stake your savings on the name which the new pope will adopt, the bookies are offering evens on Peter, but Damian is an interesting outside bet at 200/1," Ames said from Brussels.
The cardinals are scheduled to come together in a traditional conclave to make the decision soon.
The outgoing Pope changed the conclave law to allow the cardinals who will choose his successor to get an earlier start on the rigorous selection process, which can now begin before March 15.
Paul Ames contributed to this report from Brussels.