Pope Benedict XVI has signed off in style, with a James Bond-esque getaway from the Vatican.

The 85-year-old hopped in a limousine before boarding a helicopter to the seaside retreat of Castel Gandolfo, tweeting a quick farewell on the way.

After tearful officials waved him off at the Holy See, a motorcade whisked him off to the Vatican's heliport.

the pope

The pope left by helicopter

Church bells rang as he boarded the helicopter just after 4pm local time on Thursday. A short flight later he touched down arrived at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's official summer retreat, where he was given a rapturous reception as he gave a final address from the balcony of the papal villa to a packed square.

At the end of the day he would be "just a pilgrim in this world" he told them.


Catholic News Svc
"You know today is different for me. I am pontiff until 8 p.m. then just a pilgrim in this world."

At 7pm UK time, his retirement was official as his Swiss guards stood down from duty, signifying that the position of pope had become vacant.

He had earlier sent his final tweet from the @pontifex account, telling his 1.6 million followers: "Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives."

The tweets were later all deleted from the account.


Benedict XVI
Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.

His departure leaves a vacancy at the head of the Roman Catholic Church, effective from 7pm UK time on Thursday.

The pope is expected to spend the first two months of his retirement at Castel Gandolfo, before retreating from public life for good.

His final day in the job had started with a pledge of allegiance to his successor, as he prepared to become the first pope in 600 years to retire.

the pope today

The pope pledged loyalty to his successor as he addressed cardinals

He told cardinals: "Among you there is also the future pope to whom I promise my unconditional obedience and reverence."