The pope leads alone.

Benedict XVI's decision to be the first pontiff to step down in 600 years raised a host of questions about his role in the Church. But he made clear as he ended his leadership that there was no doubt who would be in charge, pledging obedience to the future pontiff.

The former pope's coat of arms was removed from a floral display in front of the Vatican's governor's palace and his fisherman's ring, an official part of the pope's regalia that features an image of St. Peter fishing from a boat, as well as the personal seals and stamps he used for official papers were destroyed.

Benedict has literally been kept out of sight. The emeritus pope has only been spotted once since retiring — in a photo snapped by a paparazzo hiding in a tree.

— Victor L. Simpson

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  • Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Argentina's cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, elected Pope Francis I addresses the crowd on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica's after being elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis I on Wednesday, becoming the church's first Latin American pontiff after a conclave to elect a leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

  • Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

  • Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

  • Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

  • People cheer in St. Peter's Square as they listen to newly elected pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who will take the name Pope Francis, on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Newly elected Pope Francis I speaks to the waiting crowd from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Argentinian women scream in St. Peter's Square as they listen to the announcement that the newly elected Pope will be Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who will take the name Pope Francis on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio, elected Pope Francis I (C) appears at the window of St Peter's Basilica's balcony after being elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO

  • People cheer in St. Peter's Square as white smoke billows out signifying that the Cardinals in the Conclave have come to a decision on a new Pope on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Cardinals entered the conclave on March 12 to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI after he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the role. The conclave inside the Sistine Chapel is attended by 115 cardinals as they voted to select the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • People cheer in St. Peter's Square as white smoke billows out of the chimney signifying that the Cardinals in the Conclave have come to a decision on a new Pope on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • Argentina's Jorge Bergoglio, elected Pope Francis I appears at the window of St Peter's Basilica's balcony after being elected the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

  • French proto-deacon cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announces the name of the new Pope, Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on March 13, 2013 from the balcony of St Peter's basilica at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

  • Nuns jubilate as white smoke rises from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel meaning that cardinals elected34 a new pope in the second ballot of their secret conclave on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

  • A pilgrim kisses a cross after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

  • Swiss guards enter St Peter's Square after white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announcing that Catholic Church cardinals had elected a new pope during a conclave on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

  • People jubilate as white smoke rises from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel indicating that the College of Cardinals have elected a new Pope on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI's successor, the 266th Pontiff, has been selected by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

  • Faithfuls react in St Peter's Square after white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announcing that Catholic Church cardinals had elected a new pope during a conclave on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

  • People shelter from the rain in St. Peters Square as they await news of the newly elected Pope on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI's successor, the 266th Pontiff, has been selected by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

  • Swiss guards parade after white smoke rose from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel meaning that cardinals elected a new pope on the second day of their secret conclave on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO

  • A general view shows the crowd on St Peter's square as white smoke rises from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel meaning that cardinals elected a new pope during the conclave on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI

  • Faithfuls wait under rain for the smoke announcing the result on the second day of the papal election conclave on March 13, 2013 at St Peter's square at the Vatican. In a rain-swept St Peter's Square, tens of thousands of people were hoping today to see the puff of smoke that would signal that cardinals meeting inside the chapel had reached a decision on who should be the next pope. Despite two puffs of black smoke in as many days, signalling that the 115 cardinals in the secret conclave had yet to choose a successor to Benedict XVI, many in the crowd were optimistic. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS

  • White smoke rises from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel meaning that cardinals elected a new pope on the second day of their secret conclave on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO

  • Faithfuls wait under rain for the smoke announcing the result on the second day of the papal election conclave on March 13, 2013 at St Peter's square at the Vatican. In a rain-swept St Peter's Square, tens of thousands of people were hoping today to see the puff of smoke that would signal that cardinals meeting inside the chapel had reached a decision on who should be the next pope. Despite two puffs of black smoke in as many days, signalling that the 115 cardinals in the secret conclave had yet to choose a successor to Benedict XVI, many in the crowd were optimistic. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

  • A faithful waves a French flag as the crowd waits for the smoke announcing the result on the second day of the papal election conclave on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. Catholics gathered from the early morning in St Peter's Square on Wednesday for the first full day of a conclave to elect a new pope, saying they wanted a compassionate leader who would bring hope to the world. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO

  • White smoke emerges from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The white smoke indicates that the new pope has been elected. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

  • Faithfuls react in St Peter's Square after white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announcing that Catholic Church cardinals had elected a new pope during a conclave on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

  • White smoke rises from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel meaning that cardinals elected a new pope on the second day of their secret conclave on March 13, 2013 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLARO

  • White smoke billows from the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel indicating that the College of Cardinals have elected a new Pope on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI's successor - the 266th Pontiff - has been selected by the College of Cardinals in Conclave in the Sistine Chapel. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • Crowds gather in St. Peter's Square to wait for the election of a new pope by the cardinals in conclave in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • White smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

  • White smoke billows from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

  • Crowds cheer after white smoke billowed from the chimney on the Sistine Chapel indicating that a new pope has been elected in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)