Vatican Expert: This Is A Very Anxious Time For The Roman Catholic Church

VATICAN CITY (CBSNewYork) – The pope will greet the final massive crowd of his pontificate on Wednesday. More than 100,000 people expected to join him in St. Peter’s Square.

They will be there to say thank you and good-bye.

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In the hours leading up to the historic moment, Rome filled in a hurry and the international media is descended on the Vatican, all under heavy security, as Pope Benedict XVI prepared for his farewell, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported early Wednesday morning.

Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican magazine, said these are anxious times for the Catholic Church.

“We, you and I are here to witness history. From a religious perspective he’s a quasi-sacred figure. From an institutional perspective he’s the summit of the entire Roman Catholic Church,” Moynihan said.

An ancient institution is being challenged by an uncertain situation — the historic resignation of a pope, a man even his critics concede is blessed by a tremendous intellect.

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“He’s a man with a mind that is extraordinary, and yet he was not a decisive table-pounder and in the end I think he felt governing the Church was difficult for him,” Moynihan said.

The mood in Rome reflects the excitement of witnessing history, but there’s also a current of deep concern for the future, according to New York native, Monsignor Kevin Irwin.

“The mood I would say, frankly, is topsy-turvy. We’re up and down with revelations more recently about the abuse crisis again, and there’s a certain bit of being ‘unsettled’ I think is the word I would use,” Irwin said.

As pope, Benedict was more a figure of respect than affection, but in his final appearances crowds have been showering him with good will. And Monsignor Irwin expects more of the same on Wednesday morning, when St. Peter’s Square will be a sea of faithful.

“It’s goodbye, thank you, unprecedented, history making, and we want to be there for something that’s not ever been seen before,” Monsignor Irwin said.

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