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Pope Benedict XVI delivers his last blessing from the window of the pontiff's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: AP / L'Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict XVI delivers a speech to cardinals in the Vatican's ornate Clementine Hall at the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI vowed "unconditional obedience" to his successor on his historic final day as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, when he will become the first pontiff to resign since the Middle Ages.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: AFP / Getty Images

''Among you is the future pope, to whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,'' Benedict said in a speech to cardinals in the Vatican's ornate Clementine Hall at the Vatican.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: ANSA / MCT

A nun walks past posters of Pope Benedict XVI reading in Italian, " You will stay always with us. Thank you" along a street in Rome.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press

Young women from Spain dance in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Shortly before 5 p.m. on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI will leave the Apostolic palace inside the Vatican for the last time as pontiff, head to the helipad at the top of the hill in the Vatican gardens and fly to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Dmitry Lovetsky / Associated Press

People wait for takeoff of the helicopter which will take Pope Benedict XVI to Castel Gandolfo in Rome.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press

Pilgrims and clergy members hold a candlelight vigil in Saint Peter's Square, facing Pope Benedict XVI's private apartment, after his final weekly public audience at the Vatican.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Assistants prepare the balcony where Pope Benedict XVI will salute faithful upon his arrival in Castel Gandolfo.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: VINCENZO PINTO / AFP / Getty Images

Night falls over Vatican City, where the pontiff has attended his last weekly public audience before stepping down.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Pilgrims participate in a candlelight vigil in Saint Peter's Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oli Scarff / Getty Images

St. Peter's Square is filled for Pope Benedict XVI's last weekly audience before his retirement.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowds at St. Peter's Square as he begins his final weekly audience with a tour around the square in his Popemobile.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Michael Kappeler / McClatchy Tribune

Faithful wave flags ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's last weekly audience at the Vatican.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: AFP / Getty Images

Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former archbishop of Los Angeles, attends Pope Benedict XVI's final general audience in St. Peter's Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Franco Origlia / Getty Images

A Swiss guardsman stands in St. Peter's Square as Pope Benedict XVI holds his final general audience before his retirement.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI blesses the faithful at the end of his final weekly audience.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP / Getty Images

Nuns gather during Pope Benedict XVI's last general audience in St. Peter's Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oded Balilty / Associated Press

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful as he leaves St Peter's Square at the end of his final general audience at the Vatican.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Franco Origlia / Getty Images

Men observe St Peter's Square before Pope Benedict XVI's final weekly public audience at the Vatican.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Nuns attend Pope Benedict XVI's final general audience in St. Peter's Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Franco Origlia / Getty Images

A large video screen shows Pope Benedict XVI making his final remarks at St. Peter's Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: MASSIMO PERCOSSI / EPA

A pilgrim prays as he attends Pope Benedict XVI's final general audience in St Peter's Square before his retirement at the Vatican.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI kisses a child as he arrives in St Peter's Square for his final general audience before stepping down Thursday..

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Franco Origlia / Getty Images

A pilgrim attends Pope Benedict XVI's final general audience in St Peter's Square before his retirement.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI steps away from the papal throne after holding his last general audience Wednesday at St. Peter's Square.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press

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Pope Benedict XVI bids farewell to cardinals on final day

By Henry Chu

[Updated Feb. 28, 2013] – VATICAN CITY – On his last morning in office Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI pledged to respect and obey his successor and told the church’s cardinals that he would pray for them to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their selection of a new pontiff.

“Among you is…the future pope, to whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,” the pontiff said, apparently trying to allay fears that having both a reigning and retired pope living inside the Vatican might spark confusion or division within the church.

Benedict bade farewell to the dozens of black-robed cardinals, the “princes” of the Roman Catholic Church, who were seated in the frescoed Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. The prelates filed before him one by one to shake or kiss his hands and exchange a few words; many removed their red skullcaps out of respect.

Read: Pope Benedict XVI pledges loyalty to his successor

02/27/2013 – VATICAN CITY — Before tens of thousands of people under clear blue skies, Pope Benedict XVI recalled a papacy full of both joy and difficulty as he held his final general audience Wednesday, the eve of his retirement as leader of the world’s Roman Catholics.

Cheers filled St. Peter’s Square as Benedict rode his special Popemobile amid the crowd that had started gathering early in the morning. National flags fluttered alongside banners bearing the simple word “Grazie,” or “thanks.”

It was one of the largest crowds to turn out for Benedict in the colonnaded piazza since he was elevated to the papacy nearly eight years ago. The 85-year-old pope, seated under a canopy on the steps of the grand basilica, responded in several languages to the greetings and tributes read to him from around the world.

At the end of the nearly 90-minute audience, Benedict stood to sing the Lord’s Prayer in Latin but looked frail as he delivered a blessing to those assembled. Some cried, “Long live the Pope!” as he climbed back in his motorized cart for a final turn around the square.

Read more: Thousands jam St. Peter’s Square for pope’s last general audience

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