The pope has left the building

Outgoing Pope Benedict XVI has departed the Vatican and will spend the final hours of his papacy at a summer retreat, soon leaving the Catholic church without a figurehead while the church tries to sort out who his successor will be.

Pope Benedict will now be known as the “Pope Emeritus,” becoming the first living ex-post in hundreds of years.

From the scene in Italy:

The courtyard at the Vatican was lined with clapping well-wishers, church officials and the plume-hatted Swiss Guards, the pope’s protectors, as Benedict left the papal apartment for the last time. On the Vatican’s helipad, he raised his arms in farewell, still wearing his white papal vestments, and the chopper lifted off into blue skies. The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica pealed during the departure.

Read more on his departure here, via World Now.

Photos: Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images, Guido Montani / EPA, Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press

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