ROME (CBS) – Several Chicago area faithful witnessed history at the Vatican on Wednesday at Pope Benedict offered his final papal audience before he steps down.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, it looked much like a normal papal audience, although the crowds were larger and the mood in the square more emotional.
For the first time in 600 years, a pope got to say goodbye.
The pope had stressed that he made the decision to step down not for his own good, but for the good of the church.
Francis Cardinal George was in the front row. He said later that he couldn’t help thinking that the pope was doing something others rarely have a chance to do
“At a wake, people get up and talk about you,” George said. “In a sense he was talking about himself at the end of a moment in his life.
“So it’s a kind of a death to a certain office and moving on. He got the chance to sum it up in his own words, and I was thinking, ‘Well good for him.’ ”
Among those crowding St. Peter’s Square were Chicagoans who’d come to see and hear Benedict for the last time.
“It was a very touching time overall. It’s always tough to say goodbye to somebody, especially somebody like Pope Benedict,” said Chris Kerzich, a Chicago seminarian.
“It was a packed house this morning, but we got a pretty good view,” said fellow seminarian Khalil Hattar of Tinley Park.
Soon, George will join his fellow cardinals to choose a successor to Benedict, and the conversation is already starting.
“Since we’re all in Rome in fact we’re already talking,” George said. “You know we talk. You could see when you were there at the audience you know all the Cardinals were up there talking. We weren’t just talking about the weather.”