Pope Benedict met with his cardinals ahead of boarding a helicopter and flying to the papal retreat south of Rome Thursday, where he will officially end his reign. A day earlier, he held his final audience as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
A helicopter carrying Pope Benedict takes off from inside the Vatican on its way to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
People wait in Rome to see the helicopter taking Pope Benedict to Castel Gandolfo, Feb. 28, 2013.
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict holds his farewell meeting with cardinals at the Vatican, Feb. 28, 2013.
Inflatable letters compose the message "Thank You Benedict, we are all with you" in the town of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, Feb. 28, 2013.