VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has recalled moments of "joy and light" during his papacy but also times of great difficulty in an emotional, final general audience in St. Peter's Square before retiring.
Benedict thanked his cardinals, colleagues and ordinary faithful for their support and for respecting his decision to become the first pope in 600 years to resign. He said that "to love the church means also to have the courage to take difficult, painful decisions, always keeping the good of the church in mind, not oneself."
Tens of thousands of people toting banners saying "Grazie!" -- "thank you" -- jammed the piazza to bid Benedict farewell during his last audience -- the appointment he has kept each week to teach the world about the Catholic faith.
The Pope greeted pilgrims Wednesday in St. Peter's Square for the final time before retiring, waving to tens of thousands of people who have gathered to bid him farewell.
Benedict was driven around the square in an open-sided vehicle, surrounded by bodyguards. At one point he stopped to kiss a baby handed up to him by his secretary.
St. Peter's was overflowing and pilgrims and curiosity-seekers were picking spots along the main boulevard nearby to watch Wednesday's event on giant TV screens. Some 50,000 tickets were requested for Benedict's final master class on the Catholic faith, but Italian media estimated the number of people actually attending could be double that.