FEB. 27, 2013 On this day, Pope Benedict XVI addressed more than 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City in his last public appearance before stepping down as the head of the world’s more than 1 billion Catholics. The pontiff, then 85 and looking “visibly frail,” “told an adoring crowd — the sort that has mostly eluded him during his eight-year reign — that ‘to love the church means also to have the courage to make difficult, painful decisions, always putting the good of the church before oneself,’ ” writer Jason Horowitz recounted in a piece that ran in The Washington Post the following day. The pope’s announcement two weeks earlier that he would be the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years surprised many. But he also presided over a time of turmoil for the church, including, Horowitz wrote, “a global explosion of the sexual-abuse crisis that had festered under his predecessor, John Paul II, and a seemingly incessant flow of scandals coming out of the church government that he struggled to manage.” Still, according to Horowitz, Benedict tried to end on a hopeful note, telling the crowd in the square: “In a time in which many talk of our decline ... we see that the church is alive today.” In March 2013, he was succeeded by Pope Francis, now 81, a onetime nightclub bouncer and Jesuit priest from Buenos Aires who is the first pontiff from the Americas in the church’s 2,000-year history.

Annys Shin