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Pope Benedict celebrates last public Mass as pontiff

Cardinal  Angelo Comastri puts ash Pope Benedict XVI's head during celebratiAsh Wednesday mass St. Peter's BasilicVatican Wednesday Feb. 13

Cardinal Angelo Comastri puts ash on Pope Benedict XVI's head during the celebration of Ash Wednesday mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a solemn period of 40 days of prayer and self-denial leading up to Easter. Pope Benedict XVI told thousands of faithful Wednesday that he was resigning for "the good of the church", an extraordinary scene of a pope explaining himself to his flock that unfolded in his first appearance since dropping the bombshell announcement. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI is celebrating his last public Mass as pontiff, presiding over Ash Wednesday services inside the packed St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Looking tired, the 85-year-old Benedict was wheeled down the central aisle as a choir sang, preceded by dozens of cardinals.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, the most solemn season in the church’s liturgical calendar that ends with Holy Week and Easter Sunday.

Wearing heavy purple vestments, Benedict referred to his pending Feb. 28 resignation in his homily, asking for the prayers of the faithful.



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