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Pope leaves Vatican promising 'unconditional obedience' to his successor
The Pope has left the Vatican on his final day as pontiff.
The Pope has left the Vatican on his final day as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Benedict XVI was flown by helicopter to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.
The 85 year-old will be known as Pontiff emeritus or Pope emeritus, and will keep the name of His Holiness, Benedict XVI and will dress in a simple white cassock without any cape.
He will no longer wear his gold ring of office, called 'the Fisherman's Ring, which will be destroyed along with his seal and he will no longer wear the red papal shoes.
At 7pm GMT, he will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards will leave their posts guarding the Pope to signify that the papacy is vacant.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone will have temporary charge of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
During his final day he met with his cardinals this morning and thanked them for their 'closeness and advice' during his ministry and vowed to be obedient to his successor.
The Pontiff told them:
"In these eight years we have experienced in faith beautiful moments of radiant light in the Churches' journey along with times when clouds have darkened the sky.
"We have tried to serve Christ and his Church with deep and total love which is the soul of our ministry.
"We have gifted hope that comes from Christ alone, and which alone can illuminate our path.
"Together we can thank the Lord who has helped us grow in communion, to pray together, to help you to continue to grow in this deep unity so that the College of Cardinals is like an orchestra, where diversity, an expression of the universal Church, always contributes to a superior harmony of concord.
"Prior to bidding farewell to each of you personally, I want to tell you that I will continue to be close to you in prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you may all be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new Pope.
"May the Lord show you what is willed by Him. And among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom, here to today, I already promise my unconditional reverence and obedience."
The next Pope will be elected by the College of Cardinals, which is expected to meet soon to set a date for the next conclave to begin.
Premier's Maria Rodriquez-Toth is in Rome and told Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour that the cardinals are expected to get together on Monday:
Yesterday, during his final general audience in St Peter's Square, the Pope said he 'has great trust' in the future of the Roman Catholic Church. Tens of thousands of well wishers had gathered for the address and heard the pontiff admit when he was elected leader of one billion Catholics worldwide in April, 2005, he questioned if God truly wanted it.
He went on to say his eight year papacy has had its ups and downs:
"It was a journey with joy, with light but there have also been difficult moments. I felt like St Peter's with the Apostles in the boat in the Galilee lake.
"The Lord gave us days of sun and of light breeze, days in which the fishing was good. There were also moments when there were stormy waters and headwinds."
Clare Ward, Home Mission Advisor at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, told Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour that many admire the pontiff's courage to step down:
The former Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has been reflecting on his time spent with Pope Benedict over the years:
During his time as Pope, Benedict XVI had to steer the Church through abuse scandals and he had been criticised for not engaging with young Catholics, which one blogger disagrees with.
Collette Power, who set up 'Generation Benedict' on Ash Wednesday, says the Pope's legacy will live on in young Catholics. Collette told Premier that one of the key themes on her site is the Pope's visit to the UK:
He'll spend about three months at the papal retreat before settling in to a new residence - a former convent known as Mater Ecclesiae - in the south-west corner of Vatican City.
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