Pope Benedict XVI said he will remain close to the clergy after his retirement on Feb. 28.
The 85-year-old pontiff spoke today to a gathering of parish priests and clergy of the Diocese of Rome in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, three days after saying he no longer has the strength to lead the Roman Catholic Church effectively.
“It’s always a great joy to see how the church lives and how in Rome, the church is alive,” Benedict XVI said, bringing tears to the eyes of some clerics. “Even though I am withdrawing into prayer, I will remain very close to you all and I’m sure that all of you will remain close to me even if I remain hidden to the world.”
The pope, who was greeted with a prolonged applause, expressed gratitude for the prayers. He recalled his personal experiences as a young theologian in the 1960s attending the Second Vatican Council, which examined the church’s relationship with the world.
During his last public mass at St. Peter’s Basilica yesterday, Benedict lamented the internal rivalries that have “defiled the face of the church.” He’s the first pope to resign in almost 600 years.