Vatican City: Thousands turned up at St Peter's Square as Pope Benedict XVI delivered an emotional last Sunday prayer and assured supporters that he was not ‘abandoning’ them.
Pope, 85, ahead of his formal resignation on Thursday, announced that God had told him to devote himself to prayer to loud applause and chanting.
"The Lord is calling me to climb the mountain, to dedicate myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church," the pope who shocked everyone by announcing his resignation last week owing to ill-health, told the crowd from the window of his residence in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.
"If God is asking me to do this it is precisely so I can continue to serve with the same dedication and love as before but in a way that is more appropriate for my age and for my strength."
He thanked the crowd, saying, "We will always be close!"
Pope Benedict’s resignation will end an eight-year pontificate that was dominated by the priest child sex abuse scandal.
First Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013, 09:33