Pilgrims flock to Vatican for Pope's final general audience
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 00:52
Feb. 27 - Pilgrims and clergy from around the world gather in St. Peter's Square to give thanks to Pope Benedict as he holds his final general audience before retiring. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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(ROUGH CUT ONLY - NO REPORTER NARRATION)
Tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world gathered in St Peter's Square on Wednesday (February 27) for Pope Benedict's last general audience before he takes the historic step of becoming the first pontiff in some six centuries to step down instead of ruling for life.
The general audience is a weekly event which would normally be held in a vast auditorium in winter, but has been moved outdoors to St. Peter's Square so more people can attend.
Some 50,000 people have asked for tickets, which are free, but many more are expected to attend and stand at the back of the square.
"Our feeling is that we are losing a father, a very kind father and it was very important for us to come and to be grateful to him for what he did," said Patrick de Koonam who had travelled from Belgium for the event.
"I've come today to say goodbye and thank you to Pope Benedict. I'm feeling excited and very grateful in my heart for his leadership of the church and his role as my father, my spiritual father, " said U.S. seminarian Jack Schraeder.
"I am feeling very sad to lose this wonderful pope who we all liked very much and of course, I've come to say goodbye and to show him that we were really very happy to have him all these years," said Austrian pilgrim Father Felix.
On Friday (March 1) cardinals in Rome will begin meetings known as "general congregations" to prepare for the secret conclave that will elect a new pope.
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