VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI began his weekly general audience this morning with the following remarks in Italian:
“Dear brothers and sisters,
As you know, I decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord entrusted to me April 19, 2005. I did this in full freedom for the good of the church after having prayed for a long time and having examined my conscience before God, well aware of the seriousness of that act, but also aware of no longer being capable of fulfilling the Petrine ministry with the strength that it requires.
The certainty that the church is Christ’s and he will never cease guiding it and caring for it, sustains me and enlightens me. I thank all of your for the love and prayers with which you have accompanied me.
I have felt, almost physically in these days — which haven’t been easy for me — the strength that prayers, love for the church and prayers for me bring me.
Continue to pray for me, for the church, for the future pope.”