Benedict XVI left the Vatican for the last time as pope Thursday, traveling by motorcade to a helipad at the train station.
To the sound of bells, the retiring pope was flown by a white Italian air force helicopter to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles southeast of Rome, where his retirement was scheduled to take place officially Thursday evening.
The helicopter landed at the summer residence at dusk, also to the sound of bells.
When he officially resigns, his Swiss Guard is scheduled to leave for the Vatican, their place at Benedict's side taken by regular Vatican police.
In his final day as pope, Benedict XVI Thursday told the cardinals charged with electing his successor he will be praying for them during the conclave.
The 85-year-old pontiff met with the cardinals, greeting them each individually as they kissed his ring before a golden throne in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, The New York Times reported.
"I will be close to you in prayer," he told them, referring to the conclave to select a new pope, expected to begin much earlier than its original date in mid-March.
Benedict said he would behave with "unconditional reverence and obedience" toward his new successor. Both will be residing in the Vatican, but Benedict will be away from the papal apartment in a restored convent on the Vatican grounds, officials said..
After he steps down, Benedict will be referred to as pope emeritus or Roman pontiff emeritus. The German-born pope will continue to be addressed as "Your Holiness" following his retirement.
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