Pope delivers one of his final messages to huge crowd
February 18, 2013 -- Updated 1046 GMT (1846 HKT)
- It's the pope's second-to-last Angelus prayer as pontiff
- Pope Benedict XVI thanks his flock for prayers and support
- He discusses "decisive moments of our lives"
- Cardinals may meet before March 15
(CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI led tens of thousands in a prayer for strength Sunday and thanked followers for their support during his second-to-last Angelus prayer as pontiff.
"Today we contemplate Christ in the desert, fasting, praying, and being tempted," the pope said to an unusually large crowd at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.
"As we begin our Lenten journey, we join him and we ask him to give us strength to fight our weaknesses. Let me also thank you for the prayers and support you have shown me in these days. May God bless all of you!"
What some Catholics want in next pope
Too early for new pope speculation
Benedict, 85, shocked millions across the world last week when he announced his intention to stand down at the end of the month, citing the frailty of old age.
The decision makes him the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years.
Referring Sunday to a Bible passage, the pope said, "During the decisive moments of our lives, and in fact at every moment, we are in front of a crossroads: Do we want to follow the I or God? The individual interest or the true good, that which really is the good?"
The crowd appeared to have about 100,000 people
He also tweeted a message to followers worldwide, calling on them to "rediscover faith" as a foundation.
Cardinals may meet before March 15 to choose the next pope if they are all in Rome, a Vatican spokesman said Saturday. The conclave will bring together the 117 cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.
Part of complete coverage on
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in a ceremony in the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica -- the first such appointments since he was elected pontiff last March.
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)
In a gesture toward the romance of Valentine's Day, Pope Francis gave his advice on how to have a happy marriage before thousands of young engaged couples.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1912 GMT (0312 HKT)
A senior Vatican official acknowledged Thursday there is "no excuse" for child sex abuse, as he and others were grilled by a U.N. committee about the Catholic Church's handling of pedophile priests.
March 8, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Take a look at Pope Francis' first year in photos with our gallery.
December 25, 2013 -- Updated 0922 GMT (1722 HKT)
Pope Francis rang in his first Christmas at the Vatican with a Christmas Eve Mass preaching a message of love and forgiveness.
November 7, 2013 -- Updated 2343 GMT (0743 HKT)
It was the embrace that melted hearts worldwide.
July 8, 2013 -- Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
On the first pastoral visit of his papacy, Pope Francis shunned protocol and politics on a visit to the tiny island of Lampedusa off the coast of Sicily.
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis kisses and hugs disabled boy lifted up in the crowd.
April 11, 2013 -- Updated 1609 GMT (0009 HKT)
With the new pope himself a trained scientist, could the timing could be right for a new era of cooperation between the Vatican and science?
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Pope Francis is being painted as a humble and simple man, but his past is tinged with controversy.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
One of the first questions many people ask when they start a new job is: What type of car will I get?
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Call him Pope Francis, the pontiff of firsts.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina is known as a humble man, a capable administrator and -- as expected of a new pope -- a man of great faith.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1725 GMT (0125 HKT)
Catholic faithful from Latin America cheered the historic election of the first pope from the region Wednesday.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
St. Francis of Assisi, after whom Pope Francis has taken his name, captures the spirit of many Catholics.
Today's five most popular stories