VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict has bestowed his final Sunday blessing of his pontificate from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square.
A crowd estimated at a 100,000 people appeared to energize Benedict, and he spoke in a clear, strong voice. The pope repeatedly thanked the faithful for their closeness and affection as they interrupted him, again and again, with applause and cheers.
Benedict told the throng that his advanced age and waning health make him better suited to a life of private prayer. But the pope sought to reassure them that he wasn't abandoning the church by retiring to spend his final years in prayer.
On Thursday evening, the 85-year-old German-born theologian will become the first pope to resign from the papacy in 600 years. Benedict will spend his last years in seclusion in a monastery on Vatican City's grounds.
He has one more public appearance, at his weekly audience on Wednesday in the square.