Pope Benedict XVI bade an emotional farewell to tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered at St Peters Square in Vatican City for the final General Audience of his eight year papacy.
The pope said that during his time in the Vatican he had experienced moments of great joy and great difficulty when he felt the “Lord was sleeping”.
“In recent months I felt my strength diminishing. I asked God through prayer to guide me with his light, to take the right decision, not for me but the sake of the church,” he said.
The faithful from all corners of the globe were on hand to thank Benedict for his service.
“I have never felt alone with the weight of responsibility. The Lord placed many by my side, so many people with generosity and love the church helped and accompanied me,” he continued.
Benedict will spend his final hours in the Vatican saying goodbye to the Cardinals who have been his closest confidants during his eight year pontificate, before beginning his retirement at 8pm CET on Thursday.