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Benedict XVI has made his first public appearance since his resignation at a Vatican hall filled with people and packed with emotion on Ash Wednesday.

Visibly moved, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church thanked the public for their love and prayers.

“Continue to pray for me, for the Church and for the future pope,” he said.

“Thank you for your sympathy. As you know, I have made the decision to give up the ministry that the Lord entrusted to me on April 19, 2005,” Pope Benedict XVI continued.

“I did this in freedom of conscience for the Church, after praying for a long time and after examining my conscience in front to God, conscious of the seriousness of the act – but equally aware that I’m not able anymore to carry out the ministry of Peter with the strength it requires,” the pope continued.

Benedict XVI made these statements during his weekly audience, which is part of his usual diary and which he will be continuing until he officially steps down on February 28.

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