Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday addresed a massive crowd at his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square and recalled moments of “joy and light” during his papacy but also times of difficulty when “it seemed like the Lord was sleeping”.

An estimated 150,000 people, jammed the piazza to bid the Pope farewell. In this appointment, which he has kept each week for eight years to teach the world about faith, the Pope gave deep thanks to his flock for respecting his decision to retire.

“To love the church means also to have the courage to take difficult, painful decisions, always keeping the good of the church in mind, not oneself.”

He said, “I have had moments of joy and light, but also moments that haven’t been easy ... moments of turbulent seas and rough winds, as has occurred in the history of the church when it seemed like the Lord was sleeping.””

But he said he never felt alone, that God always guided him, and he thanked his cardinals and colleagues for their support and for “understanding and respecting this important decision”. — AP