Pope Benedict XVI says he is stepping down as 'God had told him to go'

Pope Benedict XVI

In an emotional goodbye to 1,00,000 supporters, Pope Benedict XVI said he was steeping down as God had told him to devote himself to prayer.

During Sunday prayer in St Peter's Square, where tens of thousands of supporters turned out for Benedict XVI's ahead of his formal resignation, the Pope also assured people that he would not 'abandon' the Church.

According to a media report, he thanked the crowd with a final unscripted call, telling them: "We will always be close."

The 85-year-old leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics has said he is stepping down because he no longer has the strength of mind and body to carry on.

Benedict has said he will live 'hidden from the world', but Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi has said he could provide "spiritual guidance" to his successor and would probably continue to publish his theological research.

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