Pilgrims from around the world flocked to St Peter's Square in the Vatican to see Pope Benedict XVI give his last Sunday blessing before he steps down.

From his window overlooking the cheering crowds he used his last Angelus to tell them he was following God's wishes by resigning, reports the BBC.

He said: "The Lord is calling me to climb the mountain - prayer is not an isolation from the world,"

pope

A new Pope is expected to be chosen in time for Easter

"I am not abandoning the Church and shall continue to serve it in a manner more adapted to my age and strength."

According to the Telegraph, his voice was cracked with emotion as he addressed the crowd.

After stepping down he will live in a monastery within Vatican City, devoting his time to prayer and meditation.

He is the first Pope to resign in over 600 years blaming deteriorating health.

It was reported this week that Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign was influenced by the discovery of a gay “network” in the Vatican that led to some clergymen being blackmailed by outsiders.

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  • Nuns pray prior to Pope Benedict XVI's last Angelus noon prayer, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday,

  • Pilgrims and visitors stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City,

  • Nuns pray prior to Pope Benedict XVI's last Angelus noon prayer, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday,

  • Pilgrims and visitors stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City,

  • Nuns pray prior to Pope Benedict XVI's last Angelus noon prayer, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday,

  • Nuns pray prior to Pope Benedict XVI's last Angelus noon prayer, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday,

  • Pilgrims and visitors stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City,

  • Pope Benedict XVI delivers his final Angelus devotion of his tenure as Pontiff from a balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square in Vatican City,

  • Pilgrims and visitors stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City,

  • Pope Benedict XVI delivers his final Angelus devotion of his tenure as Pontiff from a balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square in Vatican City,

  • Pope Benedict XVI delivers his final Angelus devotion of his tenure as Pontiff from a balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square in Vatican City,

  • A woman reads a newspaper titled 'Grazie Benedetto' on St. Peter's Square

  • Pilgrims from the Diocese of Muenster stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI

  • Pilgrims and visitors stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City,

  • Pilgrims and visitors stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City,

  • Pilgrims from the Diocese of Muenster stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI

  • Faithful hold up a sign with writing in German reading "thank you", during Pope Benedict XVI's last Angelus prayer

  • Pilgrims and visitors stand on St. Peter's Square during the last Angelus devotion of Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City,