ROME - Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday made his first public appearance since stunning the world and his Catholic flock with the announcement of his decision to become the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to resign.
Telling a crowd in the Vatican auditorium that the historic resignation was "for the good of the Church," the Pope thanked believers at the traditional weekly General Audience and those around the world for their “love and prayers” and asked them to “keep praying, not only for me, but for the Church and the future Pope.”
The Pope appeared somewhat frail and spoke in a quiet voice, but smiled at the large crowd gathered before him who applauded at length.
The 85-year-old Pope announced Monday that he was too weak to continue in the role, and would step down on Feb. 28. "As you know, I have decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me on April 19, 2005," he said, to applause. "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church."
Many open questions remain, including what the "Emeritus" pontiff will actually be called, and whether he will have any role in the future governance of the church. Every one of Benedict's predecessors since the 15th century had served until death. The Vatican has said the Pope has no specific ailment that is behind the decision, though on Tuesday it was confirmed that Benedict has a pacemaker.