On Wednesday with the same fan fare as when he came in as pope, Pope Benedict addressed an estimated 150,000 people at St. Peter’s Square as he bids an emotional farewell to his flock stating that he understood the weight of his decision but in his heart felt that it was for the good of the Roman Catholic Church. His final audience was the day before he steps down as pope and live a life of meditation and prayer safely behind the Vatican walls in a renovated monastery. Benedict told the faithful that the crisis hit papacy had moments of joy but also difficulty when, “It seemed like the Lord was sleeping and “There were moments when the waters were choppy and there were headwinds.” The speech given from an ivory throne on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica were interrupted by applause from the crowds and when it was done he finished his speech the crowd and his red hatted cardinals gave him a standing ovation. Benedict will abdicate as pope on Thursday night as the cardinals begin their consultations ahead of the conclave to choose the new pope. During his speech to the faithful he commented on the future of the torubled church by saying: “I took this step in the full knowledge of its gravity and rarity but with a profound serenity of spirit” and that loving the church meant, “having the courage to take difficult and anguished choices, always having in mind the good of the church and not oneself.” An enormous crowd from Italy and abroad came together in the square in the early morning for the mid wek audience that is normally held inside but was moved outside to accommodate the faithful who wanted to see the pope one last time. Even with the ongoing church conficts from within and from scandals outside, many were supportive of the pope and his decision as Sister Carmela, who came to see the pope with fellow nuns from her nothern Italy parish, said,”He did what he had to do in his conscience before God…This is a day in which we are called to trust in the Lord, a day of hope. There is no room for sadness here today. We have to pray, there are many problems in the Church but we have to trust in the Lord.” To be fair, not all agreed with Sister Carmela, Peter McNamara, a 61 Australian of Irish descent, commented that,” He’s a disaster. It’s good for everyone that he resigned.” Like many McNamara came to witness history being made. The Vatican said that Benedict after his retirement will assume the title of “pope emeritus” and be addressed as “your holiness”. He will wear brown loafers made for him by a shoemaker in Mexico and a simple white cassock according to Lombardi. On Thursday, Benedict will greet the cardinals in Rome whom will elect the next pope before he fly by helicopter to the papal summer retreat at 5p.m. 15 minutes from Rome. When he arrives, he will make an appearance from the window of the papal villa to greet his well wishers which will be his last audience. At 8 p.m. the Swiss Guard will march off as a sign that the papacy is vacant. On Friday, cardinals will meet in a general congregation to prepare for the conclaves. This week Benedict changed the Church rule so cardinals could begin the conclaves earlier than 15 days after the papacy becomes vacant allowing the cardinals to determine when it starts. The Vatican hopes to have a new pope elected by mid-March and installed before Palm Sunday March 24 so he can preside over Holy Week services leading to Easter. An informal consultation has begun already two weeks prior when Benedict said he was quitting between cardinals.