Feb. 13 - Eight-thousand worshipers packed St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on Wednesday night to watch Pope Benedict preside over the Ash Wednesday observance, his last scheduled Mass before stepping down as Pontiff. Mana Rabiee reports.
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Thousands pack St. Peter's Basilica in Rome to witness history.
Pope Benedict 16th presided over the Ash Wednesday observance, in what was his last scheduled Mass as Pontiff.
The capacity crowd gave the Pope a thunderous ovation lasting several minutes, and in an unusual gesture, bishops took off their caps in a sign of respect.
A visibly moved Pontiff thanked the audience, adding "Now, let's return to prayer".
The location of the observance was moved from a small church to St. Peter's, in anticipation of the huge crowds.
Pilgrims began arriving early to watch the annual Mass, aware that this one was special.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) SOUTH AFRICAN WOMAN, MELANIE BRITTON-LESLIE, SAYING:
"It is just overwhelming since the last pope that resigned was in 1450 and to be part of this occasion and to be in Rome at this moment, it is overwhelming."
(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ARGENTINEAN TOURIST, JESSICA GRAVA, SAYING:
"Coming from Argentina to see one of the last appearances of the pope, we just felt so emotional, it was really emotional."
Soon, Pope Benedict will exchange this splendor of the Vatican for a sober modern residence and a life of what the Vatican says will be quiet prayer.
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