Pope Benedict was greeted with applause as he left the Vatican palace for the last time as pontiff.
Vatican staff lined the courtyard while bishops and monsignors kissed his ring.
His driver took him to a heliport at the top of the hill in the Vatican gardens where a white helicopter flew him to a 17th century palace to begin his retirement.
The Pope will spend the next several months at a papal retreat south of Rome. Then he will return to the Vatican grounds where he plans to stay hidden from the world, dedicating his life to prayer.
This morning, he gave a final blessing to the Cardinals who will elect a new Pope. One of them will be his successor.
Benedict promised his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to the next Pope. He urged the Cardinals to work in harmony, like an orchestra, as they choose the next leader of Catholic church.
The Cardinals paid their final respects to Benedict. Many of them kissed his ring before saying goodbye.
Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago wanted his farewell to be personal.
Cardinal George hopes the papal Conclave will work quickly to name a new Pope when it convenes next month, but he does not know who he will vote for.
Benedict's ring and papal seal will be "destroyed" according to Church rules. Scratch marks will be made in them so they can no longer be used to seal documents.
Before closing his Twitter account, Benedict posted one last tweet thanking followers for their love and support. He wrote, "May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives."
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