At 5:00pm Rome time, one year ago today, Pope Benedict XVI left his apartment in the Apostolic Palace, descended to the courtyard of St. Damasus, greeted several cardinals, bishops, and others, said farewell to everyone there, then was transported by car to the Vatican helipad. From there he boarded a helicopter provided by the Italian State, and departed for his temporary residence at Castel Gandolfo, the papal villa south of Rome in area known as the Alban Hills.
Here is a photo I took of the helicopter as it flew over St. Peter’s Square:
The helicopter first flew a bit outside the Square, but then circled back around so as to be able to fly directly over it, so that all of us who were gathered could wave goodbye. From there it flew relatively low over the city of Rome until about the point where it reached the Basilica of St. John Lateran (the Pope’s Cathedral), at which time it ascended to a higher altitude for the remainder of the flight, which took it over Ciampino Airport.
Rome Reports posted today this brief, 2-minute summary video of the departure and takeoff:
Unforgettable also was the Holy Father’s brief appearance on the balcony of the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo following his arrival. These were the final words of the Pontificate, a little before 6pm Rome time a year ago:
Thank you. Thank you all.
I am happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your kindness, which does me so much good. Thank you for your friendship and your affection. You know that this day is different for me from the preceding ones. I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8:00 this evening and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth. But I would still, thank you, I would still – with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength – like to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity. I feel greatly supported by your kindness. Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you. I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing.
May Almighty God bless us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!
Just over two hours later, the Pontifical Swiss Guard ceremoniously closed the doors of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, and the papacy was ended. The See of Rome was vacant, and the process would shortly begin to elect a new Supreme Pontiff.