VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis says his predecessor, Benedict XVI, was courageously following his conscience when he decided to retire.
Benedict became the first pontiff in 600 years to quit the post when he resigned in February, paving the way for Francis' election as pope two weeks later.
Francis told pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square on Sunday that God made Benedict understand through prayer the step he had to take.
Benedict explained when announcing his intention to resign that he felt he didn't have the mental and physical strength to continue as pontiff.
The rare resignation dismayed some traditionalists in the Catholic church. But Francis praised Benedict for following "his conscience with a great sense of acumen and courage."