Thousands gather for Pope's final general audience

Tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter's Square today for Pope Benedict XVI's final general audience.

The Vatican said last night that over 50,000 tickets had been requested.

People were waiting in the square since the early hours to bid farewell to the Pope ahead of his resignation on Thursday.

The 85-year-old Pope was surrounded by bodyguards as he was driven around the square in an open-sided vehicle. At one point, he stopped to kiss a baby in the crowd.

The Vatican confirmed yesterday that the Pope will become 'Pope Emeritus' upon his resignation, and continue to be called Benedict XVI.

He will wear a white cassock but without the cape. However, he will no longer wear his trademark red shoes and his fisherman's ring that comes with the office will be surrendered. His personal seal will also be destroyed.

The Pope will hold a farewell meeting with cardinals at the Vatican on Thursday before being flown by helicopter to his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo.

The College of Cardinals will meet from next Monday onwards to set a date for the start of the conclave to elect the Pope's successor.