Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI is making his first public appearance since his bombshell announcement of his resignation, presiding over his weekly general audience and Ash Wednesday services.
Thousands of people are expected to fill the Vatican audience hall on Wednesday morning for the audience, which will be his second to last public audience before stepping down 28 February.
Later in the day, the 85-year-old Benedict will celebrate Ash Wednesday, the official start of the Catholic Church's solemn Lenten season. The service is usually held in a church on Rome's Aventine hill, but was moved at the last minute to St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican said the shift was made to accommodate the crowds, though it will also spare the pope the usual procession to the church.