The crowd chanted "Long live the pope!," waved banners and broke into sustained applause as he spoke from his window. The 85-year-old Benedict, who will resign on February 28, thanked them in several languages.
Speaking in Spanish, he told the crowd which the Vatican said numbered more than 50,000: "I beg you to continue praying for me and for the next pope".
-- By Philip Pullella, Reuters
Updated Mach 5: Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his final general audience on Feb. 27, in Vatican City. (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)