Pope asks for support after decision to resign, says strength diminishing

VATICAN CITY Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:26pm IST

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican February 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican February 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, in his first public comments since he announced that he would become the first pontiff in centuries to resign, on Wednesday said he was fully aware of the gravity of his decision but confident that it would not hurt the Church.

"Continue to pray for me, for the Church and for the future pope," he said in unscripted remarks at the start of his weekly general audience, one of his last public appearances before he resigns on February 28.

The pope, who looked and sounded strong, was interrupted several times by thunderous applause from the some 8,000 faithful and tourists who packed the vast audience hall.

In brief, prepared remarks that mirrored those he read to stunned cardinals when he announced his decision on Monday, the pope said God would continue to guide the Church because it was much more than its earthly leader.

"I took this decision in full freedom for the good of the Church after praying for a long time and examining by conscience before God," he said.

He said he was, "well aware of the gravity of such an act but at the same time aware of not being able to carry out my (papal) ministry with the physical and spiritual force that it requires".

Benedict said he was sustained by the "certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, who will never stop guiding it and caring for it".

He said that "he felt almost physically" the affection and kindness he had received since he announced the decision.

Later on Wednesday, an Ash Wednesday Mass that was originally scheduled to have taken place in a small church in Rome, has been moved to St Peter's Basilica so more people can attend.

Unless the Vatican changes the pope's schedule, it will be his last public Mass.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Barry Moody)

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Canada Shooting

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Fighting Islamic State

Fighting Islamic State

Iraqi Kurds approve sending fighters to aid Syrian town.  Full Article 

Ebola Outbreak

Ebola Outbreak

Official WHO Ebola toll near 5,000 with true number nearer 15,000.  Full Article 

Double Murder

Double Murder

Thailand tourist murder suspects retract confessions.  Full Article 

Abducted Girls

Abducted Girls

Nigeria talks with Boko Haram but no sign of girls' release.  Full Article 

Bodies In Locker

Bodies In Locker

Woman charged after 6 infant bodies found in Canadian locker.  Full Article 

Tunisia Polls

Tunisia Polls

Tunisia election tests transition from autocracy to democracy.  Full Article 

Pope's Agenda

Pope's Agenda

Pope Francis plays long game to reform Catholic Church.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage