On February 28, just hours before he will make effective his resignation from the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI met with the 144 members of the College of Cardinals to bid them farewell. At 3 pm local time in Rome, the pope will leave the Vatican by helicopter and go to the papal retreat at Castelgandolfo where he will stay until permanent quarters are completed for him at a monastery within the Vatican. Henceforth, he will be known as pope emeritus and continue to wear the iconic papal white cassock, but today his papal ring - the essential symbol of his office - will be surrendered and broken, thus ending his authority as pope.
At his audience with the cardinals, Pope Benedict swore allegiance to the incoming pope, whoever he may be. The conclave of cardinals will meet soon to choose his successor as speculation runs rampant as to who the successor to Pope Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, will be.