Pope Benedict celebrated his final public mass for Ash Wednesday, his first appearance since announcing his resignation earlier this week.
Ash Wednesday is the start of the Catholic Church's lenten season, which continues through the Holy Week. By Easter, on March 31, the church will likely have a new pope.
"Dear brothers and sisters, today Ash Wednesday, we begin now our yearly Lenten journey of conversion in preparation for Easter," Benedict said.
The 85-year-old pontiff said he's resigning for the "good of the church," saying he simply does not have the strength to continue.
The pope asked the faithful "to continue to pray for the pope and the church."
Benedict's final official acts as pope will include meeting with the Romanian and Guatemalan presidents this week and the Italian president Feb. 23.