VATICAN CITY – Benedict XVI’s resignation is now official.
He will now be known as Pontiff Emeritus Benedict.
Benedict XVI said in final comments as pope that he’s now a simple pilgrim on final pilgrimage.
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.
After speaking for about a minute, aides came out – pulled off the papal banner – and shut the door.
He then boarded a helicopter for a flight to his summer residence.
He is the first pontiff to retire in nearly 600 years.
Only a handful of popes have ever done so.
The last was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism, a dispute among competing papal claimants. The most famous resignation was Pope Celestine V in 1294; Dante placed him in hell for it.
#TCDSB community’s prayers are with Pope Benedict XVI as he begins last day of Pontificate & with the Cardinals who will elect the new Pope
— Toronto Catholic DSB (@TCDSB) February 28, 2013
He also left with a plea for the College of Cardinals to unite and work together “like an orchestra” where “agreement and harmony” can be reached.
The cardinals, who will be voting in March to choose his successor, lined up and kissed his hand in farewell.
Work on selecting a new pope is scheduled to start on Monday.
The archbishop of Toronto – Cardinal Thomas Collins – will be taking part.