VATICAN CITY (WKOW) – Pope Benedict XVI officially resigns as the leader of the Catholic Church today.
An estimated 150,000 people were in St. Peter's Square yesterday to say a collective goodbye.
As Pope Benedict prepares to leave the Vatican, the College of Cardinals must consider who they plan to elect as his predecessor during their conclave.
Benedict urged his cardinals Thursday to work in unity so that the College of Cardinals is "like an orchestra" where "agreement and harmony" can be reached; a clear message to the conclave that will pick the next pope.
Pope Benedict XVI said he would pray for the cardinals in coming days and weeks as they choose his successor. He also promised "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his successor in his final greetings to cardinals before retiring.
Shortly before 5 p.m., Pope Benedict XVI will leave the palace for the last time as pope, head to the helipad on the top of the hill in the Vatican gardens and fly by helicopter to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.
At 8 p.m., the exact moment Benedict's resignation goes into effect, the doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards in attendance will go off duty because their service protecting the pope now finished.