Pope celebrates last public mass as pontiff
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Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his last public mass as pontiff, presiding over Ash Wednesday services inside the packed St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Looking tired, the 85-year-old Benedict was wheeled down the central aisle as a choir sang, preceded by dozens of cardinals.
Wearing heavy purple vestments, Benedict referred to his pending February 28 resignation in his homily, asking for the prayers of the faithful.
The scene was festive earlier in the day, when Benedict took the extraordinary step of speaking directly to his flock about why he had broken with 600 years of tradition and decided to retire.
"As you know, I have decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me on April 19, 2005," Benedict said, to warm applause. "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church."
He thanked the faithful for their prayers and love, which he said he had "physically felt in these days that haven't been easy for me". And he asked them to "to continue to pray for me".
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