News / Europe

Pope Delivers Final Sunday Prayers

Pope Benedict waves as he leads his last Sunday prayers at the Vatican February 24, 2013.
Pope Benedict waves as he leads his last Sunday prayers at the Vatican February 24, 2013.
VOA News
Pope Benedict XVI delivered his last Sunday prayer from his window above St. Peter's Square, telling tens of thousands of supporters the first papal abdication in centuries was God's will and assuring them he was not abandoning the Church.

The pope said God had called on him to "climb the mountain" and to dedicate himself "even more to prayer and meditation" after his retirement later this week.

The 85-year-old leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics will hold his final general audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Basilica.

Cardinals are arriving in Rome to elect Benedict's successor as the Vatican battles unsavory media reports.

New reports of scandal emerged Sunday as Britain's top Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Edinburgh, rejected allegations published in the Observer newspaper citing three priests and a former priest who said he had approached them inappropriately in the 1980s.

On Saturday, Catholic activists petitioned Cardinal Roger Mahony to recuse himself from the papal election so as not to insult survivors of sexual abuse by priests committed while he was archbishop of Los Angeles.

The Vatican has criticized the media for adding what it called defamatory "pressures" on cardinals before the election.

Italian newspapers recently have put out unsourced reports about the contents of a secret dossier prepared for the pope that was linked to the 2012 scandal over leaked Vatican documents.

Pope Benedict announced earlier this month that he was resigning for health reasons.  He is the first pope to step aside in hundreds of years.

Current rules call for the cardinals who elect the pope to meet on March 15, which is 15 days after Benedict formally steps down.

Benedict was elected pope in 2005 to replace the late John Paul II.

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