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Pope Benedict delivers final public blessing, says he will take up life of prayer

Pope Benedict XVI delivered his final public blessing on Sunday to a crowd of thousands at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, CNN reports. “Thank you for your affection,” the pope told the crowd as he appeared at the window of his apartment overlooking the square. He told the crowd that he will take up a life of prayer and meditation “to be able to continue serving the church.”After the brief sermon, he chanted the Angelus, a common Catholic prayer, with the crowd.The throng of spectators extended beyond the borders of the piazza, some waving flags from nations around the world and holding up signs with words of thanks for the departing head of the Catholic Church. “The Lord is calling me to climb the mountain – prayer is not an isolation from the world,” he said. “I am not abandoning the Church and shall continue to serve it in a manner more adapted to my age and strength,” through prayer and meditation, he added.Earlier this month, Benedict shocked the world with the announcement he would step down. Thursday is his last day as acting pope.The Italian press has been abuzz in recent days with allegations that gay clergy may have made themselves vulnerable to blackmail by male prostitutes, setting off speculation that a brewing scandal may have triggered Benedict’s resignation.The Vatican vehemently denied the allegations on Saturday. Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said it was “deplorable” that as the time for the Roman Catholic cardinals to elect a new pope approaches, a rash of “often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories” has appeared. As the first pontiff to step down in six centuries, Benedict said he is resigning “because of advanced age.” He is 85. “Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” Benedict said when he announced his retirement this month.Shortly after the pope’s announcement nearly two weeks ago, a different rumor began making its way through the Italian press: Allegations that the pontiff’s decision was linked to a medical procedure to replace the battery in his pacemaker. A Vatican spokesman dismissed the idea at the time.

 

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