Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful during the Angelus noon prayer, St. Peter's square, the Vatican
VATICAN CITY (CBSNews.com) - Tens of thousands of people
have flooded St. Peter's Square to bid farewell to Pope Benedict XVI at
his final general audience, the weekly appointment he kept to teach the
world about the Catholic faith.
Hours before Benedict was
to arrive, St. Peter's was overflowing and pilgrims and
curiosity-seekers were picking spots along the main boulevard nearby to
watch the event on giant TV screens. Some 50,000 tickets were requested
for Benedict's final Wednesday master class, but Italian media estimated
the number of people actually attending could be double that.
chants of "Benedetto" erupting every so often, the mood was far more
buoyant than during Benedict's final Sunday blessing and recalled the
jubilant turnouts that often accompanied Benedict at World Youth Days
and events involving Pope John Paul II.
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On Thursday, Benedict is to become the first
pontiff in 600 years to resign his position at the top of the Roman
Catholic Church. He has chosen to be known in his retirement as Pope
Emeritus, and he will move into a custom-fitted apartment on the Vatican
compound where he's said he'll spend the rest of his life in prayer and
contemplation -- out of the limelight.
As CBS News
correspondent Allen Pizzey has reported, Benedict has seemed
increasingly at ease with his transition into retirement, but he will
leave in his wake a Vatican beset by scandal. His successor will have to
figure out how to deal with deeply-rooted management problems at the
top of the Church, infighting between various factions in its governing
body, and the lingering effects of the child sex abuse scandal.
the challenges facing the Church, Pizzey says the world's cardinals
want to begin the job of choosing a new pope as soon as possible,
according to a well-placed Vatican source, and the newest guessing game
in Vatican City is how soon the conclave will begin. By both law and
tradition, the cardinals can't talk openly about it until one day after
Benedict officially leaves office.
Faced with questions
about overcoming the scandal and improving the church's image, U.S.
Cardinal James Stafford told CBS News, "We build the image by accepting
the reality that we're living in, and not being angry, and not being
How the scandals may affect the choice of a
new pope will never be known, notes Pizzey. The penalty for anyone
involved in the conclave who breaks the oath of secrecy, including
technicians and even housekeepers, used to be decided by the new pope.
But in one of his final acts, Benedict changed the penalty to