VATICAN CITY, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI delivered his final public blessing Sunday at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, saying he will take up life of prayer.
"The Lord is calling me to 'climb the mountain,' to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation," Benedict said. "But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength."
After giving a brief sermon, Benedict chanted the Angelus, a common Catholic prayer, with the crowd, CNN reported.
"I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer which I have received in these days," the pope told the crowd in closing. "Upon all of you I invoke God's abundant blessings."
Benedict, 85, announced that he was resigning earlier this month, citing his advanced age. Thursday will be his last day as pope.
Italian media has alleged that gay clergy may have made themselves vulnerable to blackmail by male prostitutes, setting off speculation that a brewing scandal may have prompted the pope's resignation.
The Vatican denied these allegations Saturday.