In front of a crowd of thousands, Pope Benedict XVI delivered his final public prayer ceremony Sunday at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City and explained his decision to step down.
"Thank you for your affection," he said.
"The Lord is calling me to go on top of the hill, to dedicate myself once more to prayer and meditation," he said. "But this does not mean to abandon the church."
The Vatican has said a new pope will be in place for the church's Easter celebrations on March 31.