Benedict's final hours as pope far from Vatican

Associated Press
Pope Benedict XVI arrives for his weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Wednesday Feb. 13, 2013. Pope Benedict XVI is telling the faithful in his first public appearance since announcing his resignation that he stepping down for "the good of the church." Benedict received a lengthy standing ovation when he entered the packed audience hall Wednesday. He was interrupted by applause by the throngs of people, many of whom had tears in their eyes. At the start of his audience, he repeated in Italian what he had told cardinals Monday in Latin: that he simply didn't have the strength to continue. He said "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church." (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
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VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI will spend his final day as pontiff attending a morning farewell ceremony with his cardinals, then fly off by helicopter in the early evening to his papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

That timetable means Benedict will be far from the Vatican when he ceases being pope at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Wednesday that no formal or symbolic act was needed to make his resignation official at that time, because Benedict had already done all that was required to resign under church law by affirming he had taken the decision freely.

Benedict's final official acts as pope will include audiences with the Romanian and Guatemalan presidents this week and the Italian president on Feb. 23.

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