Pope Benedict holds final public Mass

  • Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his final scheduled public Mass, two days after he announced his resignation.

    The 85-year-old pontiff anointed the foreheads of the faithful with ashes in a service for Ash Wednesday in St Peter's Basilica.

    Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which ends with Holy Week and Easter Sunday.

    The service was originally scheduled to be held at the smaller Sant' Anselmo church. The pontiff was then meant to lead a procession to Santa Sabina Basilica on Rome's Aventine Hill.

    The Mass was relocated to St Peter's to accommodate the larger crowds.

    Pope Benedict will continue with his agenda until the day he officially retires at the end of February, according to Vatican officials.

    In six weeks’ time, by the end of Lent, there is expected to be a new pope.

    At the age of 78, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was one of the oldest popes at the time of his election.

    In his resignation statement, he said: "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."

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