Benedict XVI: The end of a long goodbye

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“Thank you, thank you from my heart”

“I am happy to be here with you surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your friendship that warms me”

“You know that today is different from others, as of 8pm I will no longer be the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman Church”.

“I am a pilgrim who is beginning the last part of his pilgrimage on earth”.

“But with all my interior strength, with all my heart, with all my love I will work for the good of the Church and all humanity”.

This was how Benedict XVI brought to an end the long goodbye that has accompanied the final weeks of his Pontificate. Vatican Radio‘s Emer McCarthy reports…

As the bells of Rome continued to peel in salute to the 264th Successor of St Peter and the sun set behind the tiny hill-top town of Castel Gandolfo, the figure of Benedict XVI slipped behind the curtains of the central balcony of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo. It was his last public appearance as Pope.

The crowds below continued to cheer as further north, in St Peter’s Square, thousands more huddled around the giant screens, many shaking their heads, with tears in their eyes.

“Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives”, read his last tweet, sent moments before he lifted off from the Vatican heliport for the Papal Summer Residence, high in the Vatican Gardens.

Vatican officials and lay staff from his chauffeur, to the squadron of gardeners struggling to contain their emotion as they bid him farewell.

As of 8pm (Rome time), the See of Peter will be vacant. Benedict XVI will now retire into a secluded life of prayer and meditation, at first remaining in Castel Gandolfo before retiring to a monastery in the Vatican gardens.