VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict celebrated Ash Wednesday, his last as leader of the Catholic Church.
The Pope blessed thousands of parishioners in Vatican City Wednesday morning, to mark the first day of Lent.
The Pope announced on Monday he was stepping down at the end of the month, due to health reasons. This was his first public appearance since the announcement.
The Pope was originally supposed to lead the service at a small church, but it was moved to Saint Peter's Basilica for the expected large crowd. During his speech to parishioners today, the Pope addressed his resignation, saying he's stepping down for the good of the Church. He said he could not continue in the position because he does not have the strength.