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Ash Wednesday marks Pope Benedict XVI's last major event [LIVE VIDEO]

Feb. 13, 2013 at 11:27 AM  |  Updated Feb. 13, 2013 at 11:41 AM   |   Comments

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Feb. 13 (UPI) -- During his first appearance since announcing his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his decision to step down as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope, 85, addressed his follower's on Wednesday during his traditional weekly audience at the Vatican.

"I did this in full liberty for the good of the church," he told the cheering crowd in regards to his resignation. Adding that people should "continue to pray for the pope and the church."

Given the Pontiff's unexpected decision to leave his post by the end of the month, this will be the last time he gets to distribute ashes to the faithful during Ash Wednesday's services from St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.

Benedict XVI is set to step down on Feb. 28, he will have no say in the election process for his successor and will probably be known again by his birth name, Joseph Ratzinger, with the title of bishop emeritus of Rome.

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Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the midnight Christmas mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City on December 24, 2012. UPI/Stefano SpazaniPope Benedict XVI drives past the White House after participating in an official welcoming ceremony with President George W. Bush on the South Lawn of the White House on April 16, 2008. This is the Pope's first visit to the United States and only the second visit in history by a Pope to the White House. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch)
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