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  • John Thavis

From Germany with love

Among the more than 100,000 people who filled St. Peter’s Square to say goodbye to Pope Benedict today were pilgrims from Germany, including these two women who flew down to Rome for the day with a homemade banner reading: “Holy Father, we love you.”

Birgit Marschall, a 49-year-old Catholic, said she made the banner as a token of appreciation.

“I just want to say goodbye and thank him, and assure him of our prayers. I’m thankful for every word he gave us,” she said. She arrived in the square early and unfurled her banner right below the pope’s window.

Speaking in German at his noon blessing, the pope seemed to be on the same wavelength. “I thank you all for the signs of closeness and affection, and especially for your prayers,” he said.

Appearing at his final Sunday blessing, Pope Benedict referred indirectly to his retirement Feb. 28 and said he felt God was summoning him to a different kind of service in the church.

“God is calling me to `climb the mountain’ and dedicate myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this doesn’t mean abandoning the church. On the contrary, if God is asking this of me it’s precisely because I can continue to serve the church with the same dedication and love as always, but in a way more fitting to my age and my energy,” he said.

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