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There has been an emotional ceremony in the Vatican where the pope effectively said farewell to more than 1,000 priests from the Diocese of Rome.

After stepping down as pope, Benedict will no longer be Bishop of Rome either.

Speaking unscripted for more than half an hour the 85-year-old said he will see out a cloistered life in seclusion once he stands down at the end of the month.

“Even though I am withdrawing into prayer,” he said, “I will always be close to all of you and I am sure that you will be close to me, even if I stay hidden from the world.”

It was the first time the pope has spoken publicly about specific details of his life after standing down.

Talk of seclusion might calm fears in some circles that the first living ex-pope for many centuries might continue to exert influence from the background.

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