In Brief

It was no picnic being the Pope says Benedict, stepping down

Pontiff reveals he has struggled with 'burden' of role saying 'it seemed like the Lord was sleeping'

GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES was the theme of Pope Benedict XVI's final address to Catholics before his resignation takes effect tomorrow. There had been moments of joy, he said – but there were other times when "it seemed like the Lord was sleeping" and unable to guide him. Then the papacy felt like a "heavy burden".

Tens of thousands gathered in St Peter's Square at the Vatican this morning to hear from the first Pope since 1415 to step down from the job, on the grounds of "age and infirmity".

In an emotional address, Benedict revealed he had struggled with being in the public eye. "I knew I was always and forever committed for the Lord, that there would no longer be any privacy. The Pope always and totally belongs to everyone, deprived of private sphere.

"I experienced that and am experiencing it right now. There is no return to the private sphere. My decision does not revoke this fact. I am not abandoning the cross. I will remain, in a way, at the foot of the crucified Lord".

Of his resignation, the Catholic Herald quoted Benedict as saying: "I thank each and everyone for your respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision."

The 85-year-old Pope had to deal with many scandals in his eight years at the Vatican. They included allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the leaking of confidential documents revealing infighting. La Repubblica even claimed he stepped down after discovering a gay sex network in the Vatican.

Before the address, Benedict was driven around the square in the 'Popemobile', stopping at one point to kiss a baby."

He will be known as the "Pope Emeritus’ and continue to live in the Vatican. He promised to "continue to accompany the Church with prayers" and asked the crowd to pray for him and the new Pope, who will be chosen in March.

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