Pope Benedict XVI is flanked by his private secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein as he reads a message during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Wednesday. Looking tired but serene, Pope Benedict XVI told thousands of faithful Wednesday that he was stepping down for "the good of the church," speaking in his first public appearance since dropping the bombshell announcement of his resignation. The 85-year-old Benedict basked in more than a minute-long standing ovation when he entered the packed audience hall for his traditional Wednesday general audience. He was interrupted by applause by the thousands of people, many of whom had tears in their eyes.
VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI will spend his final day as pontiff attending a morning farewell ceremony with his cardinals, then fly off by helicopter in the early evening to his papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.That timetable means Benedict will be far from the Vatican when he ceases being pope at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28.Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Wednesday that no formal or symbolic act was needed to make his resignation official at that time, because Benedict had already done all that was required to resign under church law by affirming he had taken the decision freely.Benedict's final official acts as pope will include audiences with the Romanian and Guatemalan presidents this week and the Italian president on Feb. 23.