Nightly News   |  February 27, 2013

Pope Benedict’s farewell alludes to Church’s troubles

The first Pope in nearly 700 years to voluntarily step down, Pope Benedict spoke in front of his final audience Wednesday and will officially resign on Thursday at which point he will be known as pope emeritus. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> and now to rome. there continues to be an emotional time in the catholic church , and there is no road map for what's happening right now. pope benedict is abdicating. he said his farewell today. he flies off tomorrow, and then the gathering starts to pick his replacement. nbc's anne thompson was at the vatican for all of it today. anne, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. you know, in his final days, pope benedict has shown the world he has the ability to surprise. first in his decision to abdicate. and then today in his last public speech, revealing the personal toll leading the catholic church has taken on him. they came to witness history.

>> i think this is something we're going to be able to look back at and tell our grandkids we were there.

>> reporter: to say thank you.

>> for all of us, he has been a really amazing teacher.

>> reporter: and applaud the first pope in 700 years to voluntarily step down.

>> i'm sure that he's really a very intelligent man, that he cares more about the church than about his role in the church.

>> reporter: respect and affection is benedict 's trouble pontifficate comes to an end.

>> i ask each of you to pray for me.

>> reporter: in his unusually personal sermon, benedict called the papacy a great weight, filled with joy and difficulty. speaking of the rough cease he encountered, he conceded there were times when the lord seemed to sleep. for a moment, the burden seemed to lift. but not for long. today the cardinal who will announce the new pope said the cardinal electors should be told more about the secret report into vatican corruption. monday, benedict said it would be read only by him and his successor.

>> i think they want to know the nature of the problem. they want to know the extent of it. and they want to be able to measure candidates for the papacy against the depth of those problems.

>> reporter: corruption is just one issue facing the next pope. he will have to deal with clergy sex abuse and a younger generation that is drifting away.

>> the one thing that changes with every pontifficate is the style, face, manner. the one thing that doesn't change is the message. and so we have to find ways of packaging the message so that it actually gets to this generation.

>> reporter: a challenge that the 85-year-old benedict has made clear needs the energy of a younger man. tomorrow, benedict will meet with the 100 cardinals who have come to say goodbye, and then he will get in a helicopter and fly off to castel gandolfo to begin his life as pope emeritus. brian?

>> anne thompson , thanks.