18 Feb 2013

Sunday appearance by pope

5:11 am on 18 February 2013

Pope Benedict XVI has appeared at the window of his study over looking St Peter's Square at the Vatican, in one of his last public appearances before stepping down as head of the Catholic Church.

Tens of thousands of people gathered to hear the pope deliver his Sunday blessing.

He recited the Angelus prayer and thanked all those who had prayed for him and shown him support since he announced his resignation last Monday.

The BBC reports there was loud applause and there were chants of "Long live the Pope" when Benedict appeared. He urged the faithful to "renew" and "refocus" on God.

Benedict, 85, spoke in a number of languages; in Spanish, he said: "I beg you to continue praying for me and for the next pope."

The Pope will celebrate Angelus again on 24 February and hold a final audience in St Peter's Square on 27 February.

He will step down at 7pm on 28 February after eight years.

The last pontiff to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who quit in 1415 amid a schism within the Church.