Pope Benedict XVI appeared before thousands of faithful on Wednesday Feb. 13, also known as Ash Wednesday to the Catholic Religion, saying his resignation from head of the Catholic Church is “for the good of the church,” thus marking his first public appearance since the devastating announcement.

“I’ve decided to resign the ministry given to me by the Lord. I’ve done this in full freedom, for the benefit of the church,” Benedict addressed to his flock who gathered for his weekly appearance in a Vatican City audience hall.

He added that he felt it was not appropriate to continue on as pope, “if I don’t have the strength that it requires.”

Reporters from CNN as well as Associated Press describe Benedict as tired but not sick, speaking softly to his flock.

Benedict is to celebrate Ash Wednesday mass this afternoon, marking the beginning of Lent.

Vatican officials stated the service was moved to the Basilica from St. Sabina Church, where it is normally held, in order to accommodate for the crowd expected to attend.

Pope Benedict XVI will officially step down Feb. 28, becoming the first pope in six centuries to resign.

Although this marks a new experience for the Vatican, they have already begun plans for Benedict’s day of resignation.

After a farewell ceremony with his cardinals, he will fly off by helicopter to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo at 5 p.m. local time.

Benedict himself decided he would officially cease being pope at 8 p.m. because that is when his normal workday ends.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Frederico Lombardi said no symbolic or formal ceremony is necessary to make his resignation official since Benedict has already done all that is required, which was affirming that he resigns of his own free will.

Lombardi has previously said a new pope would be in place before Easter on Mar. 3.