Retiring Pope 'not abandoning' the Church

Pope Benedict XVI said he is not abandoning the Roman Catholic Church – during his final Sunday blessing at the Vatican before stepping down on February 28.

Huge crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome to hear his words, which were regularly drowned out by loud chants of “long live the Pope!”

Benedict XVI said: “The Lord is calling me to climb onto the mountain, to dedicate myself even more to prayer and meditation.

“But this does not mean abandoning the Church. Actually, if God asks this of me, it is precisely because I can continue to serve Him with the same dedication and the same love.”

Pope Benedict, 85, has decided to step down due to his age and declining health.