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Pope Holds Final Vatican Audience

Pope Benedict XVI In Final Public Audiencei
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February 27, 2013
Pope Benedict XVI has held his final public audience one day ahead of his February 28 resignation. Tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square to hear his speech, in which he asked Catholics to pray for him and for the new pope, who will be elected by Vatican officials in a process starting next week. (AP video)

WATCH: Tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square to hear outgoing Pope Benedict XVI's final audience, in which he asked Catholics to pray for him and for the new pope, who will be elected by Vatican officials in a process starting next week. (AP video)

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Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will step down at the end of the month, citing his deteriorating health. Benedict's surprise resignation makes him the first pope to relinquish his duties since the 15th century. RFE/RL's Claire Bigg spoke to Kishore Jayabalan, who heads the Rome office of the U.S.-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.
Pope Benedict XVI has told tens of thousands of people packed into St. Peter's Square that he is aware of the "gravity" of his decision to step down.

Benedict, during his final general audience on February 27, also said he was stepping down not for his own good but for the good of the Roman Catholic Church.

The 85-year-old Benedict will formally step down on February 28, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years.

In his last address, he told the faithful of the "joys" but also the difficulties of his eight-year papacy when the church faced sexual-abuse scandals and allegations of high-level corruption.

Cardinals meeting in a secret conclave are expected to elect Benedict's successor in time for the Easter holiday at the end of next month.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

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