Tens of thousands gathered today in Vatican City’s Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square) to bid farewell to Pope Benedict XVI as he gave his final general audience. He was escorted through the crowd in his open-sided Popemobile to greet attendees before ascending to the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to present his final address. The pope announced his resignation two weeks ago, citing poor health as the reason for leaving the papal office. Pope Benedict XVI is the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years.
The pope will officially leave office tomorrow, leaving the papacy vacant until the cardinals emerge from the sequestered election process known as conclave to announce who has been selected as the 266th pope.