It was every inch a bittersweet moment. Pope Benedict XVI, outgoing spiritual head of the Roman Catholic secular religion, has given his final mass and bestowed his final blessing to the thousands of sober supporters who turned up on Feb. 24 at St Peter's Square in Vatican City.
"The Lord is calling me to climb the mountain, to dedicate myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the church," the Pope said from the window of his residence in the Vatican, for the very last time, in a voice filled with emotion.
Over the weekend, the sex scandals hounding the Roman Catholic hierarchy all the more got nasty following the new scandal involving Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Edinburgh, Britain's top Catholic cleric, who allegedly conducted inappropriate behaviour with other priests over the past 30 years.
Three priests and a former priest reportedly went to the Vatican to report his ill-mannered conduct as well as to demand that he resigns and not take part in the anticipated 2013 papal conclave in March, the Observer newspaper said.
"I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love, with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength," Pope Benedict XVI said, whose resignation takes effect on Thursday. He becomes the first pope to have resigned from the papacy in 600 years.
This is it. No turning back.
"It's bittersweet," New Zealand's national broadcaster TVNZ quoted Sarah Ennis, a student currently studying in in Rome.
"Bitter because we love our Pope Benedict and hate to see him go, but sweet because he is going for a good reason and we are excited to see the next pope."
In what could be a most appropriate way to end his tenure, "thank you for your affection," was what how the Pope ended his expression of love and gratitude to the people.
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