The pope made the declaration during his final visit with local clergy at the Vatican, ANSA reported.
"Even if I step down now I am always close in prayer and you will all be close even if I remain hidden to the world," he said.
Saying he would be with the clerics in spirit, Benedict added: "Let us hope that the Lord will help us. I, retired in prayer, will always be with you. And we will go forth with the Lord in the certainty that the Lord will conquer."
The priests could not hold back their tears as Cardinal Agostino Vallini introduced the pope.
Benedict received resounding applause as he thanked them "for your affection and great love for the pope."
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