In his farewell remarks to colleagues in the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years, 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.
Pope Benedict XVI Delivers Farewell Address
In the evening, at 5:00 p.m. local time, Benedict will leave the Vatican palace for the last time to head to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence outside Rome. Before his departure, the German-born theologian will say some goodbyes in the Courtyard of San Damaso, inside the Vatican, first to his Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and then to the Swiss Guards who have protected him as pontiff.
9 Men Who Could Replace Pope Benedict XVI
From there it is a short drive to a heliport for the 15-minute flight via helicopter to Castel Gandolfo, just south of the city. Benedict will not be alone on his journey, accompanied by members of the Pontifical Household such as two private secretaries, the head of protocol, his personal physician and his butler.
Once Benedict lands in the gardens at Castel Gandolfo, he will be greeted a group of dignitaries, such as the governor of the Vatican City state Giovanni Bertello, two bishops, the director of the pontifical villas, and the mayor and parish priest. Off the helicopter and into a car, Benedict will head to the palace that he will call home for the coming months. From a window of the palace, Benedict will make one final wave to the crowd at the papal retreat.
It is there, at 8:00 p.m., that Benedict's resignation will take effect once and for all. Once the gates to the residence close, the Swiss Guards will leave Benedict's side for the last time, their time protecting the pontiff completed.
Pope Benedict's Last Sunday Prayer Service
For some U.S. Catholics in Rome for the historic occasion, Benedict's departure is bittersweet. Christopher Kerzich, a Chicago resident studying at the Pontifical North American College of Rome, said Wednesday he is sad to see Benedict leave, but excited to see what comes next.
"Many Catholics have come to love this pontiff, this very humble man," Kerzich said. "He is a man who's really fought this and prayed this through and has peace in his heart. I take comfort in that and I think a lot of Catholics should take comfort in that."