Vatican City

Benedict asks faithful to keep praying for him

Outgoing pope says does not have strength to continue

Benedict asks faithful to keep praying for him

(see related story) Vatican City, February 13 - Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday asked the faithful to keep praying for him when he is no longer the head of the Catholic Church in his first public appearance since announcing he was stepping down. "Continue to pray for me, for the Church, for the future pope, the Lord will guide us," Benedict said at his penultimate general audience in the Paul VI hall in the Vatican. The 85-year-old German, who announced he was resigning Monday, explained that he no longer felt capable of being pontiff. He said he made the decision: "in full liberty for the good of the Church, after praying for a long time and examining my conscience before God, well aware of the seriousness of this act, but equally aware of no longer being capable of exercising the Petrine ministry with the strength that this requires". He added that the affection of the faithful had helped him though "these days that have not been easy for me". "I have felt love almost physically," he added. Benedict will celebrate what is expected to be his last public Mass as pope later on Wednesday with an Ash Wednesday service in St Peter's Basilica.

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