Vatican City (AsiaNews) - There are already thousands, maybe 10 thousand, faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square for the last general audience of Pope Benedict XVI. The surrounding streets and those leading to area around the square have been shut down to traffic and are heavily guarded by the local police. Between 50 and 200 thousand people are expected for this last general audience with Pope Benedict.
Yesterday, the director of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, announced that the Prefecture of the Papal Household had already distributed over 50 thousand tickets, but he added that "obviously" people more people can participate: "The general audiences will follow the usual pattern, but the Holy Father's tour of the square in the Popemobile will be a little more extensive".
The Pope will deliver a traditional catechesis, referring perhaps to the fact that it will be the last audience, starting at 10.30. The catechesis will end, as usual, around noon, but will not be followed by the traditional 'baciamano' orprivate greetings with select groups, not for safety reasons, as someone wrote - said Father Lombardi - but only because given the circumstance too many would like to take advantage of this opportunity. So in order not to show preference for one or other group, this aspect of the audience was cancelled".
At the end of the audience, finally, Benedict XVI will greet some authorities in the Clementine Hall. These include the President of Slovakia, the captains regent of San Marino, the prince of Andorra and the President of Bavaria, the pontiff's homeland.