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PHOTOS: Benedict XVI's papacy ends, leaves Vatican

Last updated on: March 1, 2013 02:19 IST

Image: Pope Benedict XVI addresses during the last meeting with the Cardinals at the Vatican
Photographs: Osservatore Romano/Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday left the Vatican for the last time as pontiff and flew by helicopter to the Vatican's vacation retreat Castel Gandolfo, a hilltop town southeast of the city.

Benedict XVI became the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from papacy.

Benedict bid farewell to his close aides before he travelled by car to the helipad and boarded a helicopter.

Well-wishers held up signs saying "Thank You."

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PHOTOS: Benedict XVI's papacy ends, leaves Vatican

Image: People react near a giant screen showing the departure of Pope Benedict XVI from the Vatican City
Photographs: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Bells tolled as they took off and circled St. Peter's Square, where well-wishers bid him farwell.

Before leaving, Benedict pledged "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor.

In an unexpected address inside the Vatican's frescoed Clementine Hall, the pope appeared to be trying to defuse concerns about his future role and the possible conflicts arising from the peculiar situation of having both a reigning pope and a retired one, the AP reported.

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PHOTOS: Benedict XVI's papacy ends, leaves Vatican

Image: A helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI takes off from inside the Vatican on its way to the papal summer residence at Castelgandolfo
Photographs: Stefano Rellandini /Reuters

"Among you is also the future pope, whom I today promise my unconditional reverence and obedience," Benedict told the cardinals.

"May the College of Cardinals work like an orchestra, where diversity an expression of the universal church always works toward a higher and harmonious agreement," he said.

As pope emeritus, Benedict intends to reside in Castel Gandolfo for several months and then return to the Vatican to live in an apartment being prepared for him in a convent whose gardens offer a perfect view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, nytimes reported.

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PHOTOS: Benedict XVI's papacy ends, leaves Vatican


Photographs: Max Rossi /Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he appears for the last time at the balcony of his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, south of Rome.

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PHOTOS: Benedict XVI's papacy ends, leaves Vatican


Photographs: Max Rossi /Reuters

A nun holds a a flag as she waits for Pope Benedict XVI to appear for the last time at the balcony of his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, south of Rome.

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PHOTOS: Benedict XVI's papacy ends, leaves Vatican


Photographs: Yara Nardi /Reuters

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, waves as the helicopter carrying Pope Benedict XVI takes off from the Vatican, on its way to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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