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Pope Blesses Faithful At Vatican For First Time Since Resignation Announcement

Pope Benedict XVI blessed tens of thousands of cheering faithful Sunday for the first time since he announced his resignation last week.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reported on the event for our Newscast unit. Here's what she said:

"Under hazy skies, St. Peter's Square was packed with pilgrims, tourists and curiosity seekers.

"At noon, Benedict appeared at his window overlooking the square and raised his arms outstretched to the massive crowd.

"He spoke in Italian, English, French, German, Polish and Spanish. But it was only in this last language that he asked the faithful to continue praying for him and the next pope.

"The pope gave particular thanks to the people of Rome, a possible hint at Benedict's title after he retires. Some analysts say he might be called emeritus bishop of Rome. And the crowd broke out into wild applause."

Benedict steps down as pope on Feb. 28. Cardinals will then elect his successor at a conclave in the Sistine Chapel.

Here's more from The Associated Press:

"The Vatican hasn't announced the date of the start of the conclave, but said on Saturday that it might start sooner than March 15, the earliest date it can be launched under current rules. Benedict would have to sign off on any earlier date, an act that would be one of the last of his nearly eight-year papacy."

Benedict is the first pope to retire in 600 years. At the time of his announcement, he cited his advanced age, 85, and diminishing strength as reasons for his decision.

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