Pope, near abdication, says pray "for me and next pope"
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict asked the faithful to pray for him and for the next pope, in his penultimate Sunday address to a crowded St. Peter's Square before becoming the first pontiff in centuries to resign.
The crowd chanted "Long live the pope!," waved banners and broke into sustained applause as he spoke from his window. The 85-year-old Benedict, who will abdicate on February 28, thanked them in several languages.
Speaking in Spanish, he told the crowd which the Vatican said numbered more than 50,000: "I beg you to continue praying for me and for the next pope".
It was not clear why the pope chose Spanish to make the only specific reference to his upcoming resignation in his Sunday address.
A number of cardinals have said they would be open to the possibility of a pope from the developing world, be it Latin America, Africa or Asia, as opposed to another from Europe, where the Church is crisis and polarized.
"I can imagine taking a step towards a black pope, an African pope or a Latin American pope," Cardinal Kurt Koch, a Swiss Vatican official who will enter the conclave to choose the next pope, told Reuters in an interview.
After his address, the pope retired into the Vatican's Apostolic Palace for a scheduled, week-long spiritual retreat and will not make any more public appearances until next Sunday.
Speaking in Italian in part of his address about Lent, the period when Christians reflect on their failings and seek guidance in prayer, the pope spoke of the difficulty of making important decisions. Continued...