Mayor of Castel Gandolfo to make Benedict honorary citizen
Town south of Rome welcomes pope as heads into retirement28 February, 18:41
"I was very excited, I thanked him, I gave him the embrace of all our community," recalled Milvia Monachesi, who welcomed the pontiff as his helicopter landed at the papal summer retreat in this town south of Rome.
"Benedict XVI just smiled and said 'thank you, thank you,'" added the mayor, who said that no pope has ever before been made an honorary citizen.
However, the title has been given to Benedict's brother Georg Ratzinger.
Monachesi said he recalls both Benedict and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano attending summer concerts organized by the Vatican in the community.
Police say a crowd of at least 10,000 well-wishers and the faithful crowded into the main square area outside the pope's summer retreat to welcome Benedict as he begins his retirement.
The outgoing pontiff will spend two months on retreat there before moving into a monastery inside the Vatican, as 'pope emeritus'.