Blessing after blessing was given by Pope Benedict XVI as he celebrated his last public mass for Ash Wednesday Services. The service was celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica.
At the end of mass the applause lasted for over a minute. The Holy Father only said "Grazie" as he called the faithful to the final prayer. During the homily he said, "Tonight we are great in number around the tomb of Apostle Peter, also to request his intercession for the Church's journey at this particular time, renewing our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude my Petrine ministry, and ask for a special remembrance in prayer."
Ash Wednesday begins the forty days of prayer during the penitential season of Lent which concludes with Holy Week and Easter. Over 1 billion Catholics worldwide will be praying for a new shepherd to lead them.
On Sunday the Holy Father will begin a week of spiritual exercises, as is customary during Lent. This year the retreat will be preached by Cardinal Gianfranco Rovasi president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
The general audience of Feb. 27 will be the Holy Father's last public appearance.
On Feb.. 28, the Holy Father will meet with cardinals in the morning and then at 5 p.m. he will be taken by helicopter to Castel Gandotto. At 8.00 p.m., Feb. 28 the See of Peter will become officially vacant.