The crowd, 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 thanked his flock for respecting his retirement, which takes effect Thursday.
Benedict clearly enjoyed the occasion, taking a long victory lap around the square in an open-sided car and stopping to kiss and bless half a dozen children handed to him by his secretary. Seventy cardinals, some tearful, sat in solemn attendance — then gave him a standing ovation at the end of his speech.
Benedict made a quick exit, foregoing the typical meet-and-greet session that follows the audience as if to not prolong the goodbye.
Text and Images: AP
Image: Pope Benedict XVI waves from his pope-mobile as he is driven through the crowd during his last general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.