Pope Benedict XVI leaves Vatican on historic final day
VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI left the Vatican on Thursday for the last time as pontiff before he steps down as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, becoming the first pope to resign in 700 years.
Benedict boarded a white helicopter emblazoned with the Vatican flag for the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo near Rome, flying over the Vatican for the last time as pope.
As he took leave of his closest aides in an emotional parting ceremony in the Vatican, staff lined the route of his motorcade and applauded.
The bells of St Peter's Basilica rang out as the helicopter took off from the Vatican's helipad.