01 March 2013
“Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.” In these words, Benedict XVI issued his final tweet before leaving the Vatican for the last time as Supreme Pontiff.
Shortly afterwards, accompanied by private secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Papal Household, he took a car to the Vatican heliport where the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, greeted him and he boarded the helicopter that carried him to Castel Gandolfo. As the helicopter lifted off, the bells of St Peter's Basilica and the churches of Roma began ringing.
VIS News reports the Pope's helicopter flew over the city of Rome, passing by the Colosseum and St John Lateran Basilica, and landed at the Castel Gandolfo heliport.
He was then taken by car to the Castel Gandolfo Apostolic Palace, where he was greeted by hundreds of people while the bells of Castel Gandolfo's parishes rang out.
Shortly afterwards, Benedict XVI appeared at the balcony of the Apostolic Palace and said to the many faithful who were waiting to thank him for his pontificate: “Thank you. Thank you all. Dear friends, I am happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your well wishes, which do me such good. Thank you for your friendship and your affection. You know that this day is different for me than the preceding ones. I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8 this evening and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.
"But I would still — with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength — like to work for the common good and the Good of the Church and of humanity. I feel very supported by your kindness. Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you. I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all.”
When Benedict XVI's pontificate ended the twitter account @Pontifex was deactivated. Once elected, the new Pope may, if he so desires, take over its use. Benedict XVI's Fisherman's Ring and the seal of his pontificate were also destroyed at that time and the papal apartments in the Vatican Palace were sealed.