Pope Benedict standing down 'for good of the church'

Wednesday February 13, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI made his first public appearance on Wednesday after the shock announcement on Monday that he will resign at the end of February 'due to advanced age'.

Speaking to an emotional crowd during a speech at the Vatican, the pontiff thanked them for their "love and prayer".

"Keep praying for me, for the church and for the future pope," he added.

The 85-year-old announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals on Monday morning. He said his strength was no longer adequate to continue in office and that because of his advanced age and diminishing strength, he didn't feel he could continue. 

"I did this in full freedom for the good of the church after praying for a long time and examining my conscience before God," he said on Wednesday.

The Pope will step down at 5pm on February 28 and will leave the Vatican by helicopter to go to Castel Gandolfo, where he is expected to live. He will not return until a new Pope has been chosen.

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