Tourists, Romans seek piece of history at pope's Sunday prayer

Sun Feb 17, 2013 10:23am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Robin Pomeroy

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Foreign tourists and Romans packed into St. Peter's Square on Sunday for one of the last chances in history to see Pope Benedict, whose resignation caused more surprise than sadness.

"I was just excited that we were going to get to see him before he resigned, and thought it would be cool to be in Rome with something like that happening," said Shea Wild, an American student who had planned the trip before Benedict's shock decision to step down.

"If he thought he wasn't able to continue his duties as pope then, good for him for making the decision to resign," said the 21-year-old Catholic as the cobble-stoned square began filling up.

Not everyone was so understanding of the 85-year-old's decision that the effects of age meant he was unable to go on, and several compared Benedict unfavorably with his predecessor, John Paul II, who suffered a long, incapacitating illness before his death at 84 in 2005.

"It was a big disappointment because usually the pope is someone who carries out his role until the end," said Hugo Barone, 60, a retired engineer from central Italy.

"Maybe John Paul was made of tougher stuff, he saw it through to the end. Ratzinger can't do it and prefers a better life," he said, referring to Benedict by his family name.

"It's completely wrong to leave his mission," said Emanuele Vitali, a 22-year-old Sicilian studying economics in Rome who also said John Paul had done right in sticking to tradition and dying in office. "Right to the last he managed to do his work, and even did it very well.

"It's absolutely the wrong decision (to resign) because we are in a moment of social, ideological and cultural crisis and in a moment like that it is completely wrong for him to leave."   Continued...

People wave as Pope Benedict XVI leads the Sunday Angelus in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican February 17, 2013. Pope Benedict, speaking before a larger than usual crowd at his penultimate Sunday address, asked the faithful to pray for him and for the next pope. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi