VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI blessed the faithful from the Vatican Sunday for one final time before he becomes the first pontiff in 600 years to step down.
The pope appeared at his window overlooking St. Peter's Square Sunday morning, addressing a cheering crowd.
He said that even though he's retiring Thursday from the papacy, he'll serve the church in a way more consistent with his age and his strength.
The pope plans to spend his final years in seclusion in a monastery on the Vatican City's grounds.
"The lord is calling me to go up the mountain to devote myself a lot more to prayer now and to meditation," Pope Benedict XVI said. "But this doesn't mean abandoning the church."
Pope Benedict XVI will make one final public appearance as pope on Wednesday.
The pope leaves amid allegations in the Italian news media that his decision to retire stemmed from a scandal involving gay sexual activity by clergy members.
The media reports said that the alleged behavior was uncovered during an internal Vatican investigation into the leaking of sensitive documents.
A Vatican official said the reports are defamatory and untrue and called them an attempt to influence the conclave of Cardinals, who will be gathering to elect Pope Benedict XVI's successor.
Officials are hoping to have a new pope named by Easter Sunday on March 31.