CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy — Shortly after arriving at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, following a brief helicopter trip from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI made his final public address.
“Thank you; thank you from my heart,” the Holy Father said to hundreds of cheering people assembled below the balcony from which he spoke, Vatican Radio reported. “I am happy to be here with you surrounded by the beauty of creation and your friendship that warms me.”
Said the Pope, “You know that today is different from others; as of 8pm, I will no longer be the Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman Church.”
From now on, he said, “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.”
Continued the Pope, “And I feel greatly supported by your affection. Let us move forward together with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world.”
Pope Benedict concluded his remarks with his final papal benediction.
“I will now impart upon you all my apostolic blessing,” he said. “Thank you and good night. Thank you all.”
Shortly before leaving the Vatican, the Pope released his last tweet on the @pontifex Twitter account.
“Thank you for your love and support,” he tweeted. “May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives.”
The Pope’s retirement officially takes effect at 2pm Eastern time. He will remain at Castel Gandolfo until renovations are completed to a residence within the Vatican.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.