by Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Calling this an unusual time for him and for the Church – but not specifically mentioning his resignation – Pope Benedict XVI thanked people for their affection and asked them to continue their prayers.
A roar of applause rose up from more than 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Feb. 17 as Pope Benedict came to his studio window to lead the Angelus prayer.
People came to St. Peter’s in larger numbers than normal for a Sunday Angelus because it was the first completely public, no-tickets-needed event since the pope announced Feb. 11 that he would be stepping down Feb. 28.
As he does every week, he greeted groups of pilgrims in their native tongues. Addressing Spanish speakers, he said, “My heartfelt thanks … for your prayers and affection in these days. Continue to pray for me and the next pope.”
And he told Polish speakers, “Thank you for your prayerful support and spiritual closeness in these days that are so unusual for the church and for me.”
Before leading the Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict commented on the beginning of Lent and the day’s Gospel reading.