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Last chance for Benedict's Sunday blessing from his window on St. Peter's Square draws crowd

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FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2013 file photo, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges a cheering crowd of faithful and pilgrims during his second-last Angelus prayer from the window of his apartments at the Vatican. As the first pontiff in six centuries to step down, Benedict has carved a new path for his successors who decide they cannot rule for life. But scholars say the repercussions could reach beyond just changing how pontiffs leave to ultimately shape perceptions about the authority and significance of the pontificate. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis) (The Associated Press)

The last chance for a Sunday blessing from Pope Benedict XVI from his studio window is drawing a crowd to St. Peter's Square.

The vast cobblestone space was filling up with faithful as well as others wanting to see Benedict in his next-to-last scheduled appearance to the public before he retires to a seclude life of prayer in a Vatican monastery. Benedict, 85, steps down on Thursday, the first pontiff to resign in 600 years. He will hold his last public audience in the square on Wednesday.

The Sunday appearance from the papal apartment window overlooking the square is a cherished tradition for pilgrims and tourists, usually attracting a few thousand people. Officials say this history-making moment could draw far more than 100,000 despite forecasts for heavy rain.