Benedict begins final day as pope before retiring

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Pope Benedict XVI. AP FILE PHOTO/DOMENICO STINELLIS

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI is beginning a final quiet day as pontiff, meeting with his cardinals before flying off into retirement.

No major speech is expected during his morning farewell Thursday with his closest advisers, just a simple greeting to each one inside the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Shortly before 5 p.m., Benedict 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.

And there, 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, their service protecting the pope now finished.

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