27 February 2013
Last updated at 06:33 ET
Pope Benedict XVI has given his final address to thousands of Catholic faithful in the bright sunshine of the Vatican's St Peter's Square. The pontiff, who is to retire on Thursday, said he was "guided by God" during eight years as Pope.
The 85-year-old German-born Pope - formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - is becoming the first to step down since Gregory XII in 1415.
Benedict was elected Pope after the death of John Paul II in 2005, but cites his failing health as the overriding reason for his unexpected retirement.
A conclave of cardinals will convene in early March, with the aim of electing a new Pope before Holy Week, which leads up to Easter.
In the crowds massed throughout the square there was an outpouring of affection for Benedict.
After his address, and before delivering a final prayer, the Pope took to the popemobile one final time, for a tour of the cheering crowds.
Benedict faced a range of troubles during his time as Pope, notably ongoing fallout from a sexual abuse scandal, but those gathered in Rome appeared united in their adulation of the pontiff.
After his officials retirement on Thursday, the Pope will disappear from public life, eventually to live in seclusion and prayer in a monastery close to the Vatican. He is not expected to involve himself in the affairs of his successor.
Speculation about Benedict's successor looks set to increase as the conclave nears. Will the next Pope hail from Latin America, home to the majority of the world's Catholics? Will he be an African? Or will another European emerge as the favoured candidate?