Pope Benedict VXI closed the chapter on his eight-year papacy in an emotional speech on Wednesday, saying there were moments it appeared God was asleep.
The pope left a church mired in crisis as the scars of the child sex scandals refuse to heal in the church and among children traumatised by the abuse.
“These years have been a stretch of the church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments of joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the church it has ever been and the Lord seemed to sleep.
“Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink,” he said.
Benedict XVI, who left office on Thursday, became the first pope in 600 years to resign as head of the Catholic Church.
His short reign has divided opinion among the faithful, with some saying his conservative approach on issues such as abortion kept the church out of sync with the realities of the people he led.
The pope said he was aware that the decision to resign from the papacy was not only unusual, but also had implications for the church.
“I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.
“At this point, I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him,” he said.