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More than fifty thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to receive a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI, as his last blessing will be next week.
Pope Benedict, 85, revealed to the world on February 11 that he would be stepping down at the end of the month due to health problems, reports The Los Angeles Times.
Benedict is the first pope to resign in six hundred years, stated Yahoo News.
Pope Benedict’s health seems to be deteriorating. In addition to a loss of hearing and a frail frame, he has also lost sight in his left eye.
“Thanks for the turnout in numbers! This too, is a sign of the affection and the spiritual closeness that you are giving me these days,” the pope said in Italian to the crowd as he stretched his arms to embrace the vast, faithful crowd.
Pope Benedict XVI’s last blessing will be in St. Peter’s next Sunday. He will say his final goodbyes to an audience on February 27, and will then be flown from the Vatican to an area outside of Rome in which he can start his retirement. After two months, he is expected to move into a monastery in the Vatican’s gardens.
Cardinals are expected to elect the next pope within fifteen to twenty days.