The final hours of the papacy of Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI decided that February 28, 2013 would be the last day of his pontificate. ; In the morning, he met with cardinals. One hundred and forty-four were in attendance as he thanked them and delivered a message to his successor.
"Among you, in the College of Cardinals, is the future Pope. I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience to him."
Hours later, at five in the afternoon, he took his final journey as Pope through the corridors of the Vatican. His secretary, Georg Gänswein, could not contain his emotions. He walked slowly, looking weak and using a cane. At the door of his home, hundreds met Pope Benedict XVI to see him as Pope one last time.
The Vatican provided live video of the journey. A car took him through the Vatican gardens and to the heliport.
Then he began his brief trip out of Rome. He planned to spend a few weeks at Castel Gandolfo. Church bells rang throughout Rome for him as he took his final papal flight over the Eternal City.
Thousands of people waited for him as he arrived at his new home.
"Soon I will not longer be Pope. I will simply be a pilgrim in the last stage of his life. I want to pray and meditate for the good of the Church and the world."
When the clock at Castel Gandolfo struck 8:00 p.m., the sede vacante period began, and the Church no longer had a leader.
The gate to the Apostolic Palace was closed. The Swiss Guard ceased to guard it because there was no longer a Pope. Instead, they worked in service of the College of Cardinals. Many could not contain their emotions. And so ended a pontificate that lasted for 7 years, 10 months and 9 days.