Pope Benedict bids farewell in last public appearance
A huge crowd of faithful followers, the world's media and tourists gathered in St Peter's Square on Wednesday for the Pope's final public audience before he officially stands down on 28 February.
In the address to about 150,000 people, the Pontiff thanked his cardinals, colleagues and devout Catholics for their support since his shock announcement to become the first pope for 600 years to resign.
He said: "Loving the church means knowing how to make hard and difficult choices with the good of the church, and not oneself, in first place."
Crowds gathered from the early morning in the Vatican, Rome, to bid a final farewell to the frail 85-year-old who arrived in his 'Popemobile' to make the emotional public appearance.
In the emotional address of the public, Pope Benedict said that his decision to resign "is the fruit of a serene trust in God's will and a deep love of Christ's church."
Crowds reaching 150,000 gathered in St Peter's from the early morning in the Vatican, Rome, to wave flags from a multitude of nations to show their support. His speech was frequently interrupted by huge rounds of applause
Pope Benedict XVI kisses a child lifted up by the Pontiff's personal secretary Georg Ganswein, as he leaves St Peter's Square at the end of his final general audience
The Pope is welcomed to the 17th-century St Peter's square in the 'Popemobile' for a final blessing. Pictured here are the cardinals who will take part in the papal conclave following his official abdication on Thursday 28 February at 8pm
The German-born Pontiff announced his abdication on 11 February due to diminishing strength. His official announcement read "After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."