Pope Benedict speaks to faithful at the Vatican
Thousands of people flooded the Vatican's main audience hall Wednesday for Pope Benedict XVI's first public appearance since his bombshell resignation announcement, taking advantage of his second-to-last public audience before retiring at
the end of the month.
It's a busy day for Benedict, who will also preside over Ash Wednesday services later in the day to mark the official start of the Catholic Church's solemn Lenten season. The service is usually held in a church on Rome's Aventine hill, but was moved at the last minute to St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican said the shift was made to accommodate the crowds, though it will also spare the 85-year-old pope the usual procession to the church.
Hours before Benedict was due to appear, long lanes snaked out into St. Peter's Square of people waiting to pass through metal detectors to get into the audience hall.
Pope Benedict XVI told his faithful, in his first public appearance since announcing his resignation that he stepping down for ``the good of the church.''
Benedict received a lengthy standing ovation when he entered the packed audience hall Wednesday. He was interrupted by applause by the throngs of people, many of whom had tears in their eyes.
At the start of his audience, he repeated in Italian what he had told cardinals Monday in Latin: that he simply didn't have the strength to continue. He said ``I did this in full liberty for the good of the church.''
He asked the faithful ``to continue to pray for the pope and the church.''
(The Associated Press)