Benedict XVI celebrates last mass and pope on Ash Wednesday

Benedict XVI celebrates last mass and pope on Ash Wednesday

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent for the Christian faith. If you can't make it to your local house of worship, there are several locations in the city where you can observe the holiday.

Beginning at 6 a.m., Holy Name Cathedral on State and Superior applied ashes to those who came for the weekday masses. Urban Village Church took Ash Wednesday to the streets, offering ashes at various locations including Daley Plaza at 8 a.m. and numerous train stations throughout the day.

The season of Lent began for Roman Catholics on the heels of news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of February. The 85-year-old pontiff made his first public comments on Wednesday morning, since his resignation announcement on Monday.

He told the faithful, who gathered in the thousands at Vatican City, that he would be stepping down for "the good of the church."

Benedict basked in a standing ovation that lasted more than a minute.

The Vatican says the pope will spend his final day as pontiff attending a morning farewell ceremony with his cardinals, then fly off by helicopter in the early evening to his papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

That timetable means Benedict will be far from the Vatican when he ceases being pope at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Wednesday that no formal or symbolic act was needed to make his resignation official at that time, because Benedict had already done all that was required to resign under church law by affirming he had taken the decision freely.

Benedict's final official acts as pope will include audiences with the Romanian and Guatemalan presidents this week and the Italian president on Feb. 23.

Cardinal Francis George will travel to Rome to participate in the conclave that will elect a new pope before the Easter holiday, on March 31.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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