Benedict XVI Officially Abdicates Papacy (PHOTOS)

By Eric Dutkiewicz

Benedict XVI Officially Abdicates Papacy (PHOTOS)

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    Pope Benedict XVI is applauded by cardinals at the Apostolic Palace hours before he officially abdicated the papacy.

    (Vatican TV)

14 photos

February 28, 2013 Updated Dec 4, 2013 at 7:43 PM EDT

VATICAN CITY (www.incnow.tv) - Swiss guards closed the doors of Castel Gandolfo Thursday, officially ending Benedict XVI's reign as pope.

"Thank you for your love and support," Benedict, now titled as pope emeritus or Roman pontiff emeritus, tweeted one final time from the papal account (@Pontifex). "May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives." That Twitter account later was vacated and all tweets deleted.

The Roman pontiff emeritus spent much of his last day as leader of the Roman Catholic Church by meeting with cardinals at the Aposotlic Palace.

"I will continue to follow you in my prayers," the pope emeritus says. "So, that you may fully welcome the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May God show you what He wants from you."

Late in the afternoon, the pope emeritus appeared from a window at the papal summer retreat, where he will bid farewell to his flock.

"I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth," he says.

From there, Benedict went into seclusion, where he says he will spend the rest of his life in prayer.

With the Chair of Peter abdicated the Church looks for a new leader during what is called the interregnum, or time between reigns.

No date has been set for the papal conclave, but the College of Cardinals could convene next week to pick a successor. As one of his final acts as pope, Benedict allowed the conclave to meet earlier in the interregnum.

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