Rome (CNN) — Benedict made what is likely to be his last ever public appearance Thursday, thanking cheering crowds for their “friendship” as he steps down as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
“I am no longer the pope but I am still in the church. I’m just a pilgrim who is starting the last part of his pilgrimage on this earth,” he said.
Benedict’s historic resignation as pope takes effect at 8 p.m. (2 p.m. ET).
His final words and a blessing were given to some 10,000 people who had gathered at Castel Gandolfo, the summer papal residence, to bid him an emotional farewell.
“With all my heart and prayers and thoughts and strengths, I’d like to work for the common good and for the good of the church and mankind,” he said.
“I feel very much supported by your sympathy. We will go together ahead with the Lord, for the good of the church and the world. Thank you very much.”
Smiling slightly, he made the sign of the Cross to bless the crowds and disappeared into the building.
It is likely to be the last time he is seen in public.
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