Pope Benedict Holds Final Mass Public Mass

By: From CBS News, Posted by Ralph Hipp
By: From CBS News, Posted by Ralph Hipp
The Pontiff received a tanding ovation; Pope Benedict XVI celebrates last public Mass as pontiff for Ash Wednesday.

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful at a welcome ceremony at the airport in Silao, Friday March 23, 2012. Benedict's weeklong trip to Mexico and Cuba is his first to both countries. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)


VATICAN CITY (CBS News) -- Once Pope Benedict XVI leaves office, his new title will be "Bishop Emeritus of Rome." On Ash Wednesday, Benedict explained his decision to retire, saying, "I am no longer capable of carrying out Peter's ministry with the strength needed." At St. Peter's Basilica, the public said farewell to a pope.

Flash photography is frowned upon in St. Peter's Basilica, but it was a sin worth committing Wednesday as the faithful crowded in to get a glimpse of the pope at his last public mass.

Benedict's frailty, which played a part in his decision to resign, was evident as he was wheeled down the corridor, but so too was the faith and sense of duty which made him take a job he said he never wanted. He said the mass was a good opportunity to thank everyone and asked for special remembrance in prayer.

He also used the homily to criticize the recent infighting among the Vatican clergy, saying the Church's image had been hurt. The mood was bittersweet -- tears wiped away discreetly -- and a very unchurch-like standing ovation in the basilica where popes are announced and buried.

Earlier in the day at his weekly audience, Benedict told a packed hall that he understood the gravity of his decision, and he asked the faithful to pray for the future pope.

Those closest to Benedict say they are sad he's going but respect his decision, according to senior Vatican communications adviser Greg Burke.

"This is really a courageous move," said Burke, "because somebody who was considered such a traditionalist, making a decision which goes against six centuries of tradition."

Benedict will leave Vatican City by helicopter at 5:00 p.m. local time on February 28 for Castel Gandolfo, about 16 miles away. Three hours later, he will go from being the spiritual leader of 1.2. billion Catholics to the first living former pope in more than six centuries.

But until then, duty calls.

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