Pope calls for churchgoers to renew

2013-02-17 16:31
(Supplied)

(Supplied)

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Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI called on the Church and its faithful on Sunday to "renew themselves" as tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists attended his penultimate Angelus prayers.

"The Church calls on all its members to renew themselves... which constitutes a fight, a spiritual battle, because the evil spirit wants us to deviate from the road towards God," he told the crowds from his window overlooking St Peter's Square.

Families with young children, pensioners and nuns packed into the square in the sunshine said they had come to pay their respects to the pope, make their goodbyes or just share in a historic event ahead of Benedict's resignation.

Groups of scouts held up banners reading "We have loved you so much!" and "We will be with you... always" and said they wanted to show Benedict that his shock decision to stand down on February 28 had not shaken their faith in him.

A serene-looking Benedict waved to the crowds and thanked them for turning out in such large numbers, calling it a "sign of affection and spiritual closeness", as the onlookers called out "viva il papa" (long live the pope).

The Vatican said over 50 000 people had turned out to see the 85-year-old pope, while local authorities put the number at over 100 000.

Benedict, whose surprise announcement last Monday that he would step down after eight years rocked the Church, called on the world's faithful to "refocus on God by disowning pride and egoism".

His words were seen by some to hold a veiled reference to internal bickering within the Church in recent months, as well as the jostle for power as cardinals from all over the world prepare to vote in his successor.

Later on Sunday, the pontiff will start a week-long spiritual retreat and have only very few public engagements before he formally steps down - the first to resign voluntarily in 700 years.

Benedict will receive Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on 23 February, celebrate his last Angelus prayer on 24 February and hold a final audience in St Peter's Square with tens of thousands of followers on 27 February.





Read more on:    pope benedict xvi  |  pope francis  |  vatican city
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