As it happened: Pope Benedict XVI resignation

Key points

  • Benedict XVI has become the first Pope in nearly 600 years to resign
  • The Pope was flown by helicopter to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo near Rome
  • 115 cardinals will meet in Rome on Monday to plan the election of the next Pope (all times GMT)

Live text

Reporting:

  • Michael Hirst 

STANDARD 1540

Hello and welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the final few hours of Benedict XVI's pontificate.

The Pope is due to board Shepherd I, the Papal helicopter, to fly out of the Vatican shortly. He will head to the Papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, some 15 miles south-east of Rome.

STANDARD 1548

There are clear skies in Rome for the short flight - we'll bring you footage of the journey on this page.

Stay with us for the latest updates, as well as links to pieces of analysis and context from Vatican experts and our team in Rome. Do send us your thoughts following the instructions on the right.

STANDARD 1550

Benedict XVI earlier addressed the College of Cardinals - the most senior figures in the Church - calling for unity and harmony and pledging his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to the next pope.

He said he hoped God would show them the right way as they prepared to elect the next Pope. Each cardinal then kissed his hand in a personal farewell.

STANDARD 1554

As Vatican dignitaries and invited guests gather to see the Pope off, the square outside the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo is full of people praying the rosary and awaiting the arrival of Shepherd I. There are mixed emotions of excitement and sadness and Vatican flags flutter from lamp posts.

STANDARD 1558

Applause ripples around the Vatican square as Benedict emerges to be greeted by the top brass in the Curia - the administrative body that runs the Holy See.

He will stay in quiet seclusion in Castel Gandolfo for about two months while his future permanent home - a convent inside the Vatican - is being renovated.

Benedict ducks into a black Mercedes for the short drive under police escort to the papal helicopter.

STANDARD 1603

A quick break-down of what's expected over the next couple of hours: Shepherd I will take off in the next few minutes for the 15-minute flight to Castel Gandolfo.

At around 1700 GMT, Benedict will appear at a window overlooking the public square in Castel Gandolfo to greet the crowd that has been building there all day.

At 1900 GMT he will cease to be pope. The Church then goes into what is known as "Sede Vacante" - the period between the death or resignation of one pope and the election of his successor.

For details on that and other clerical terms, have a look at our glossary.

STANDARD 1605

Pre-checks are completed and the engines are on as Shepherd I prepares for lift-off. Romans are gathered on roof-tops across the city to see off the Pope on his final journey.

The bells of St Peter's are ringing to mark the historic occasion.

STANDARD 1607

We have lift-off. Five minutes late but that's pretty prompt in Vatican time.

If you're wondering about the Italian signature on the side of the chopper, that's because it's owned not by the Vatican but Alitalia...

TWEET

Stacey O'Shaughnessy

tweets: Watching the Pope leave the Vatican...very emotional

STANDARD 1609

Pope Benedict XVI's last tweet has just been sent from his @Pontifex account:

"Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives."