Pope Benedict has bestowed his final Sunday blessing of his pontificate from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square.

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his last Angelus Blessing from the window of his private apartment to thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A crowd estimated at a 100,000 people appeared to energize Benedict, and he spoke in a clear, strong voice. The pope repeatedly thanked the faithful for their closeness and affection as they interrupted him, again and again, with applause and cheers.

Benedict told the throng that his advanced age and waning health make him better suited to a life of private prayer. But the pope sought to reassure them that he wasn't abandoning the church by retiring to spend his final years in prayer.

On Thursday evening, the 85-year-old German-born theologian will become the first pope to resign from the papacy in 600 years. Benedict will spend his last years in seclusion in a monastery on Vatican City's grounds.

He has one more public appearance, at his weekly audience on Wednesday in the square.

 UK cardinal contests 'inappropriate acts' claims

Pope Benedict XVI's personal secretary Monsignor Georg Gaenswein (R) removes the Papal banner from the window after The Pontiff delivered his last Angelus Blessing ( Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Catholic officials say they are looking into allegations of "inappropriate behavior" by Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Catholic cleric.

Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church, said Sunday that O'Brien is contesting the claims made by British newspaper The Observer. The paper reported that three priests and a former priest have filed complaints to the Vatican alleging that O'Brien made inappropriate approaches to them.

The paper did not cite the names of the priests or detail the nature of the allegations. It said some of the claims date back to the 1980s.

Kearney said that O'Brien is taking legal advice and declined to comment further.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said "The pope has been informed, and the question is in his hands."


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