At 5 p.m. CET (11 a.m. EST), Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican on a helicopter to the papal seaside retreat, Castel Gandolfo. Once he arrived at the castle, he greeted the crowd at 5:30 p.m. CET. AP has this transcript of the Pope's final words:
Dear friends, I'm happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of creation and your well-wishes which do me such good. Thank you for your friendship, and your affection. You know this day is different for me than the preceding ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8 o'clock this evening and then no more.
I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth. But I would still ... thank you ... I would still with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength, like to work for the common good and the good of the church and of humanity. I feel very supported by your sympathy.
Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the church and the world. Thank you, I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!"
Nicole Winfield reports from the AP:
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI has greeted the faithful for the last time as pope, telling well-wishers gathered at the Vatican's vacation retreat that he is beginning the final stage of his life as a "simple pilgrim," hours before he becomes the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.
Benedict arrived at Castel Gandolfo after an emotional sendoff from the Vatican, where his closest aide wept by his side as he bade farewell to Vatican officials gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, Swiss Guards standing by at attention.
Bells tolled as he left the Vatican by helicopter and did a fly-by around St. Peter's Square. They tolled anew as he arrived in Castel Gandolfo, where the central piazza was jammed with people eager to capture the historic moment.
Pope Benedict began his last day in the papal office by greeting the College of Cardinals at around 11 am CET. In this meeting, his last with the cardinals, he declared his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to the next pope.
As of 8 p.m. CET, the Catholic world has entered into a period of Sede Vacante, literally Vacant See; and Pope Benedict XVI is Pope Emeritus.
02/28/2013 4:16 PM EST
The Pope's Last Flight: A Media Masterpiece
Dario Morelli, expert on religion and media law, writes in his blog post:
A precise, wise and great director orchestrated the video of Benedict XVI's flight toward oblivion. The inexorable trajectory of the helicopter in front of the background of a majestic and exhausted city, the hypnotic hum of the blades as the only noise, accompanied by the bells of Rome, which tolled the newly Vacant Seat -- for the first time, joyfully.
The setting and the details transformed the great historical event in a great media event, which was absolutely not a given.
Continue reading here.
02/28/2013 4:14 PM EST
.@Pontifex Tweets Deleted
Pope Benedict XVI is pope no more. The Vatican wasted no time reflecting that on his official Twitter account.
All of his tweets were deleted on the social network (though an archive preserves them here), his picture has been replaced with the papal seal, and the account's name is now "Sede Vacante." That last phrase is Latin for "the seat being vacant," as journalist Gio Benitez pointed out.
Continue reading here.
02/28/2013 3:58 PM EST
@ CardinalSean :
Today I shared w/ Pope Benedict XVI a Bavarian greeting & also that the people of Boston thanked him for his ministry & are praying for him.
02/28/2013 3:30 PM EST
Sealing Papal Apartments
Swiss Guard closes main door of CstlGan papal villa at 8 p.m. today, signaling end of B16's papacy. (CNS/Paul Haring) twitter.com/CatholicNewsSv…— Catholic News Svc (@CatholicNewsSvc) February 28, 2013
02/28/2013 3:03 PM EST
Non Habemus Papam
The apartment in which Benedict XVI lived for eight years has been sealed by the state secretary cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The seal is made of a strong adhesive band with the stamp of the vacant seat, reports HuffPost Italy.
02/28/2013 2:59 PM EST
The Swiss Guards Leave Benedict XVI
A few minutes after 8pm, the Swiss Guards went off-duty in front of the gates of Castel Gandolfo. The Swiss Guards, who have been protecting the Pope since 1506, are not responsible for the the pope emeritus' security. During the two months he will spend in Castel Gandolfo, the Vatican policemen will be in charge of him, reports HuffPost Italy.
02/28/2013 2:57 PM EST
What Happens to the Swiss Guard When the Pope Resigns?
Being a Swiss Guard is not all feathered helmets and puffy striped uniforms.
To even apply, you must be Catholic, male, Swiss and between 19 and 30 years of age. You need to sign up for a minimum two-year hitch and must complete your mandatory military service back at home.
Swiss Guards take an oath to protect the present pope and whoever follows him as the latest successor to the first pontiff, Peter.
Tonight, when Pope Benedict XVI retires at 8 p.m., the Swiss Guards will go inside the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo and go off duty. They won't be staying, however — after they get out of their dress uniforms they will be driven back to Rome.
Benedict will then be guarded by Vatican security personnel.
02/28/2013 1:25 PM EST
Nine Litter Known Facts About Pope Benedict
Yes he was the leader of 1.1 billion Catholics, but did you know Pope Emeritus Benedict could fly a helicopter? Here are nine little known facts about the Pope Emeritus that may give us some clues on how he will pass the time in retirement, when he is not praying of course.
02/28/2013 1:20 PM EST
@ JamesMartinSJ :
Farewell Holy Father! Thank you for your many years of service to God and to God's people. May your retirement be filled with many graces.
02/28/2013 12:47 PM EST
The Papacy Ends Quietly, In A New Way
For the first time in history, the pontificate of Benedict XVI ends "quietly, without the death of the bishop of Rome, without the upheavals that lead to papal resignation in the past." This is how Gian Maria Vian, director of L'Osservatore Romano, defines this day in his editorial.