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Pope Benedict Steps Down As Pontiff
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) -- Benedict XVI has greeted the faithful for the last time as pope from balcony of papal retreat.
He was on the balcony at Castel Gandolfo for a little over a minute, speaking his last public words as pope.
"I am simply a pilgrim who is starting the last part of his journey," the 85-year-old told the crowd, wearing only a white robe in the chilly evening air.
They shouted back "Long live the pope!" "Thank you, goodnight!" Benedict replied before going back inside the palace.
A few minutes later, aides came out on the balcony, pulled off the papal banner, rolled it up and brought it inside the palace. The glass doors to the balcony were quickly clicked shut and the white curtains behind them tightly drawn.
The speech came hours before he becomes the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.
Benedict arrived at Castel Gandolfo after an emotional sendoff from the Vatican. 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.
Bells tolled as Benedict left the Vatican by helicopter, which did a fly-by around St. Peter's Square. They tolled again as he arrived at the retreat.
In an unexpected speech to cardinals today, the pope promised "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor. Benedict urged them to work in unity so that the College of Cardinals is "like an orchestra" where "agreement and harmony" can be reached.
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