Pope bids farewell and leaves the Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI bade his final farewell to the faithful today, lifting off from the Vatican in a white helicopter as the first pope to resign in six centuries.

“Thank you for your love and support,” the pope tweeted from Benedict XVI [email protected] “May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”

With church bells ringing across Rome, the pope was driven to the helipad on the Vatican grounds for the 15-minute flight to the papal summer residence where he will assume the title “pope emeritus” after 8 p.m. local time.

In his final remarks earlier in the day to colleagues in the Roman Catholic Church, Benedict had promised “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his eventual successor.

Benedict, in a morning meeting at the Vatican, urged the cardinals to act “like an orchestra” to find “harmony” moving forward.

Benedict, 85, is spending a quiet final day as pope, bidding farewell to his colleagues and moving on to a secluded life of prayer, far from the grueling demands of the papacy and the scandals that have recently plagued the church.

His first order of business was a morning meeting with the cardinals in the Clementine Hall, a room in the Apostolic Palace. Despite the historical nature of Benedict’s resignation, not all cardinals attended the event.

With their first working meeting not until Monday, only around 100 cardinals were set to attend, the Vatican press office said Wednesday. Those who are there for Benedict’s departure will be greeted by seniority.

Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, thanked Benedict for his service to the church during the eight years he has spent as pontiff.  (ABC News)